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Space superiority remains vital to national security

Gen. William Shelton testifies in front of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces April 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Shelton spoke on space and cyberspace capabilities. He is the Air Force Space Command commander, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Gen. William Shelton testifies in front of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces April 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Shelton spoke on space and cyberspace capabilities. He is the Air Force Space Command commander, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Gen. William Shelton reviews his notes before testifying April 3, 2014, in front of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces, in Washington, D.C. Shelton is the Air Force Space Command commander, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Gen. William Shelton reviews his notes before testifying April 3, 2014, in front of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces, in Washington, D.C. Shelton is the Air Force Space Command commander, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Gen. William Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, highlighted a successful satellite launch to the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces during a budget hearing for national security space activities here, April 3.

“Just this morning, we had a very successful Defense Meteorological Satellite Program launch out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, (Calif.), on an Atlas V,” Shelton said.

DMSP is the primary provider of terrestrial and space weather information for the U.S. military. DMSP satellites carry sensors vital to weather prediction and space weather forecasting. DMSP sensors provide visible, infrared, microwave and space weather data to enhance information available to the warfighter.

Shelton was joined by Gil Klinger, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space and intelligence; Douglas Loverro, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Lt. Gen. John Raymond, the 14th Air Force commander and the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command; and Betty Sapp, National Reconnaissance Office director. All parties agreed stable funding of space programs is critical to maintaining an advantage in the space arena.

“Our nation’s advantage in space is no longer a given,” Shelton said. “The ever-evolving space environment is increasingly contested as potential adversary capabilities grow in number and sophistication.”

Changes to the space environment have caused changes to policies and practices within the Department of Defense and the Air Force.

“The evolving strategic environment increasingly challenges U.S. space advantages,” Loverro explained. “Space is no longer the sole province of world powers. It is a frontier that is now open to all. In the last several decades, space has become more competitive, more congested and more contested. What worries me the most is the contested nature of space, which we now face.”

He stressed the importance of space, not only to those on American soil, but to the warfighters of partner nations.

“It underpins DOD capabilities worldwide,” he said. “It enables U.S. global operations to be executed with precision, on a worldwide basis, with reduced resources, fewer deployed troops, lower casualties, and decreased collateral damage. Space empowers both our forces and those of our allies to win faster, and bring more of our warfighters home safely.”

Satellite launches, like the one at Vandenberg AFB, and units like Joint Forces Component Command for Space, provide the various capabilities necessary to maintain space superiority now, and in the future, officials said.

“To meet the demands of the dynamic space environment, my command is focused on three operational objectives: Providing timely warning and assessment, supporting national users and joint and coalition forces, and protecting and defending our space capabilities," Raymond said. “JFCC Space is and will continue to be the world’s premier provider of space capabilities, even as it faces constantly evolving operating and threat environments. I am confident that the men and women of JFCC Space are prepared to meet these challenges with a spirit of dedicated innovation and devotion to duty, providing the warfighter assured access to the world’s premier space capabilities.”

DOD and AF leaders agree the key to a successful space program, and an enduring advantage in space is innovation, as well as the appropriate budget to accomplish mission requirements.

“Providing budget stability and flexibility in this very dynamic strategic environment is necessary to maintain and bolster the viability of our nation’s space capabilities,” Shelton said. “Given this new ‘normal’ in space, I believe we are at a strategic crossroad. I believe it is a reality that requires us to address how we protect our space systems, challenge traditional acquisition practices and consider alternative space architectures that are more resilient and affordable.”

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