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Air University teaches space as a warfighting domain

Col. Niki Lindhorst, the Air University Space Chair, talks about the curriculum development for space education within all of Air University's education and training programs. (U.S. Air Force courtesy video)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- Air University is changing the way it educates about space.

In all levels of professional military education and select professional continuing education curricula, the university will now be presenting space curriculum that is focused on developing joint-minded graduates who are prepared for joint, all-domain conflict, where the space domain is likely to be contested, degraded and operationally limited.

The transition is driven, in large part, by the dramatically and rapidly changing global military-political environment that has emphasized more than ever the strategic importance of the ultimate high ground.

“We now face competitors that seek to incur great cost upon our nation and fighting forces in ways we didn’t think possible before,” said Col. Niki Lindhorst, space chair to Air University. “Our competitors recognize the great advantage the U.S. and its allies enjoy from our capabilities in the space domain, and they are actively seeking ways to deny us those capabilities.”

To answer this challenge, Air University, in concert with the space community, is building curriculum to develop Airmen as joint and coalition warfighters who are versed in space capabilities, who understand the dependencies their missions have on the space domain and who are prepared to fight through a degraded space environment, she said.

Developing space-minded enlisted Airmen will start by including new space warfighting lessons in the core curriculum of their first touchpoint in their continuum of education — Airman Leadership School — while incrementally increasing the breadth and scope of the subject in subsequent levels of enlisted PME, such as the Senior NCO Academy and Chief Master Sergeant Leadership Course.

“Our senior enlisted leaders will spend time thinking through the wicked problems that test the space community today,” Lindhorst said. “The solutions they develop in class will provide differing perspectives on themes like space policy and strategy and joint and coalition integration.”

Additionally, tackling near- and long-term problems at the senior officer level requires building a corps of space-minded leaders from the ground up, she said.

To do so, Air University will introduce space topics to cadets and officer trainees in its two officer accession programs: Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and Officer Training School. Both programs combined produce about 80% of the Department of the Air Force’s total force officer corps.

“It is important that we begin to develop space-aware leaders at the outset, while they are going through their commissioning source. It is essential to develop lieutenants that are ready upon commissioning to compete against complex adversaries,” Lindhorst said.

A few years after commissioning and hitting the first stop on their PME continuum of education, all officers and civilians attending Squadron Officer School will see a focus on space in areas like threats to the space domain, the role of each service in space, space priorities and resources, among other topics, she said.

Additionally, all space professional students will be enrolled in the “Space Grey Rhinos” space concentration where they will study space as an instrument of power and policy. Students will participate in the Air University Advanced Research capstone project, researching space topics and presenting ideas to the U.S Space Force in a final out-brief. Elective opportunities will cover subjects like Space Law and Globalization and the Evolution of Space.

All students attending Air Command and Staff College and Air War College will continue to study space-focused curriculum that explores the operational implications of space as a warfighting domain. Through these efforts, Air University will build a core of joint and coalition officers and U.S. government civilians skilled in space domain strategy who will serve as key leaders, advocates and advisors to warfighting commanders and national leadership.

“It’s essential that the Space Force has senior leaders not only in space career fields, but also supporting the Space Force in career fields that are remaining within the Air Force, who are educated with a focus on the space domain,” said Dr. Andrea Harrington, director of Schriever Space Scholars at ACSC. The college is doubling the number of students accepted into its Schriever Space Scholars Concentration, increasing from 13 to 26 students.

Modeled after the ACSC Schriever Space Scholars, but presented at the strategic level of instruction, Air War College is launching the West Space Seminar this year. The seminar is named after Dr. Gladys B. West, a 2018 inductee into the Space and Missile Pioneer Hall of Fame and whose work was critical to the development of the Global Positioning System satellite constellation. Students accepted into the seminar will explore space power concepts, as well as foundations of strategy, national strategic decision making, global security and warfighting through a space lens.

AU is incorporating space as a warfighting domain into curricula across all distance learning and in resident programs offered through all of its colleges and centers such as Air Force Cyber College, Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development and many others.

“It will take all of us to meet the challenges of today’s global environment, and at Air University, we have embraced our role in developing the warfighters our country requires in future conflicts to ensure our national security and the security of our allies,” Lindhorst said.

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