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Library > Speeches > Keynote Speech at the 28th Annual National Space Symposium

Keynote Speech at the 28th Annual National Space Symposium

General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command

Colorado Springs, Colo., April 17, 2012

I was just telling Elliot that's a very generous and kind introduction and congratulations to the Space Foundation for yet another great symposium here in Colorado Springs.

I'd also like to thank the Space Foundation for your steadfast work in promoting STEM education.

In my view, the lack of STEM graduates is a national security issue in the broadest sense of those words, and it doesn't seem to be on a path toward improvement.

So, thank you, Elliot, for staying focused on this problem, for the country really.

You know people have started calling the Goddard Dinner in DC the Space Prom, so this has got to be the Space Reunion. (Laughter)

It's always great to see so many people that have been good friends from over many years in this business. It's good to be back.

It's hard to believe it's really been 30 years since the creation of Air Force Space Command. I first came to the Command in 1986, so I've been lucky to have been in and out of the Command for some 26 years now. That length of time could also explain why my hair color has gone from a little bit darker, to back to blonde over these years. (Laughter)

We've come from the beginnings of national security space, where we had various organizations directing military space activities, to the focused space and cyber Command we are today--in just three short decades. Moving from a time when space was a nice-to-have with a strategic-user emphasis, to being a vital force multiplier across the entire joint force.

Space capabilities are now indispensable not only to our Nation's defense, but to our national economy as well.
Obviously I'm preaching to the choir here today. But in my humble, and somewhat biased opinion, Air Force Space Command has had an amazing first thirty years.

And we really wanted to give credit where credit is due by showing the pictures of the previous AFSPC commanders in that video. Several are in the audience today, so if you would, please join me in a round of applause for these leaders who made Air Force Space Command what it is today. (Applause)

Clearly, certainly I and the rest of us stand on the shoulders of giants in this business.

I want to spend a few minutes this afternoon talking about what I believe are the major accomplishments of Air Force Space Command since last year's Symposium.

And I'll also talk about the budget outlook. And what kind of talk would it be without some more about the budget, right? And I think you'll be surprised that space actually has done well in the DoD budget process, so far this year.

And finally, I want to give you some thoughts about the future direction of Air Force Space Command.

Again, this has been a year of tremendous accomplishment for our Command.

We extended our string of successful EELV launches to 49, which is an amazing and unprecedented record. (Applause) Thank you.
Our incredible government-industry team rescued our first Advanced EHF satellite from a useless orbit and with some operational concept modifications we anticipate getting the full life out of that satellite.

The team deservedly won several national awards for this terrific engineering and operational feat, including Aviation Week's Laureate Award in the Defense Category.

We also launched the ORS-1 satellite, and it began providing images to its CENTCOM customers just a month later.
Now, if we could get the on-orbit check-outs of the rest of our assets down to that kind of timescale, I'd be a very happy man.
And yes, I do realize I'm only dreaming. (Laughter)

We conducted the largest GPS constellation realignment in history, moving to a deployment scheme called the Expandable 24.
These choreographed maneuvers optimized the constellation for better coverage in urban canyons as well as mountainous regions such as Afghanistan.

Our second X-37 test vehicle has been on orbit for 409 days now--much longer than the 270 day baseline design spec.
Although I can't talk about mission specifics, suffice it to say this mission has been a spectacular success.

We continue to provide the resources required for space situational awareness, allowing JFCC SPACE to process over 155 million sensor observations and track over 22 thousand orbiting objects in our space catalog.

Our SSA assets also helped track the reentries of NASA's Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite and the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft.

We're off and running with the restructured JSpOC Mission System program, which will further the cause of SSA more than anything I've seen in my entire career.

If I had more time with you today, I'd discuss other successes we've had in the Command during the past year, but I need to move on from what we've done in the past to what we will do in the future.

And, as you are all keenly aware, that future is heavily dependent on budgetary considerations.

The Budget Control Act last year reduced the DoD budget by $487 billion dollars, which amounts to about an 8% reduction in spending power over the next decade--and that's at a minimum.
To accommodate that reduction, all Services had to pitch in, and certainly the space budget wasn't spared.

Across the Air Force, we had to make some tough choices to balance force structure, readiness, modernization and people programs as our share of these reductions.

And oh by the way, we are not even contemplating the additional automatic cuts of an additional $500 billion dollars or so required by that same Budget Control Act, the so-called sequester.

Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey revealed our new National Defense Strategy not long ago. And in their comments, they indicated there were several areas which would receive increased emphasis.

Two of those areas were cyberspace and space.
In my current job, I have to tell you I think that's brilliant. (Laughter)

Some have suggested the FY13 President's Budget doesn't appear to reflect that emphasis. In fact, during my congressional testimony, I was repeatedly questioned about the 22% reduction in the AF space budget from FY12 to FY13. Which is true in raw numbers.

Across all functional areas, the Air Force's reduction in investment funding in the President's Budget ended up being about 9%.

So, Congress wanted to know, why is the space budget getting hit at more than twice the level of the broader Air Force?

But quite frankly the raw numbers don't tell the real story. Let me give you some examples to make that case.

In FY12, we submitted a budget of about $470million dollars for a single Wideband Global SATCOM satellite.

During the mark-up of our budget, Congress generously added a second for a total of about $800 million dollars in the WGS line. Five international partners then banded together for a third one. With three satellites in the pipeline, there was no need to budget for more WGS satellites in FY13.

Next, the FY12 budget purchases a launch vehicle for NOAA's DSCOVR climate observing satellite--no need for additional funds in FY13.

The Defense Weather Satellite System was terminated by Congress in FY12, and that explains another chunk of funds no longer required in FY13.

Several of our major constellations are moving from R&D to production, so it's only natural to see the research and development funding ramp down as the program moves into production and sustainment.

We're also comfortable enough with the progress of Operationally Responsive Space to spread the lessons learned in that niche program to all of our satellite programs. I'll talk about that in more detail later.

And finally, our Space Test Program was terminated, but we have major space S&T efforts in DARPA, AF Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, and Army Space and Missile Defense Command's Laboratories as well.

Frankly, STP was a hard program to cut, but, as I said, in trying to accommodate $487 billion dollars in reductions, we had some tough choices to make.

So after we look at all the puts and takes, and we do an apples-to-apples capability-based comparison with FY12, the real decrease in the FY13 Air Force space budget portfolio was only about $117 million dollars, or a decrease of only 1.5 percent.
And that's a result that I believe demonstrates Secretary Panetta's and Chairman Dempsey's commitment to foundational space capabilities as a critical aspect of the nation's defense.

I'm guessing some of you may still be skeptical, so let me switch from the reductions we took to what the President's Budget is actually funding.

Wideband Global SATCOM, or WGS, is our MILSATCOM workhorse for at least the next decade or two. Three of them are already operational, and the fourth is undergoing on-orbit checkout as we speak. It should be turned over to the operators in late July. A total of nine of them are ordered and a tenth is expected to be on contract later this year.

Each individual satellite has roughly the same capacity as the entire DSCS constellation that WGS is replacing. WGS also hosts Global Broadcast Service information to give our warriors information such as overhead imagery, sensor data from remotely piloted aircraft, intelligence reports, and open source news broadcasts.

CENTCOM calls WGS their strategic backbone, as it allows them to extend classified and unclassified network support into the Area of Operations. One of the reasons it's so useful is that it can process both X and KA bands and crosslink between the two.

With some 70 percent of the cost of MILSATCOM in the ground terminals themselves, you see why being able to cross-strap is so important, and it's much cheaper than buying all new terminals. WGS wasn't without some birth pains, but it's clearly a success story today.

Another capability we protected during the budget formulation was the secure, jam-resistant communications capability provided by our Advanced EHF satellites.

While WGS is certainly the bandwidth champion, Advanced EHF was designed to deliver assured national and nuclear command and control. And, as you'd expect with that sort of a task, it's designed to operate in highly contested environments.

It's a big improvement over its predecessor, MILSTAR, with about ten times more throughput in each satellite. Some of you have probably used MILSTAR for voice communications before; you probably were not very impressed with the quality. You can make out the words--sometimes--but the voice sounds very tinny and clipped.

For secure voice teleconferencing, Advanced EHF has four times the data rate, so not only do you understand the words being spoken, but you also can tell the speaker's voice as well; you can recognize that speaker.

We've put secure tactical communications on the platform, as well, and that will enable mobile users to communicate in a very heavy jamming environment.

I told you earlier about our struggles to get this satellite to orbit, but we've just about got the checkout completed now. The second satellite is currently scheduled to launch on May 5th.

Acquisition of the next two satellites is moving along as well. However, the ground portion of the system has been admittedly problematic. While development of the Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals, FAB-T, has not kept pace, there are several terminals ready to use the AEHF waveform.

So, we're not in a single-point failure situation.

The Army's Survivable Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T) started fielding in late 2011 to allow soldiers to become proficient with it.

The Minuteman Minimal Essential Emergency Communication Network Program-Upgrade terminal will start installs in April of next year to support our intercontinental ballistic missile launch control centers.

The Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal will begin fielding in FY16.

This is a nuclear command and control system providing Air Force wing command posts and mobile support teams with survivable communications to receive Emergency Action Messages and disseminate those e-messages to bomber, tanker and reconnaissance air crews.

So, while it's true that our primary FAB-T terminal system won't be available until further down the road, we'll still be able to get a lot of use out of the Advanced EHF constellation as each of those satellites become operational.

Let me switch to our Space-based Infrared System and I'm happy to report we have the first GEO satellite on orbit!

I was at Air Force Space Command Headquarters at the turn of the century, as Elliot said, working the requirements for that program.

As the Bob Seger song says, "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." (Laughter) I'll wait for you to catch up. (Laughter)

We collectively made this program very hard, but we are seeing great data from the sensors on the spacecraft.

We made a programmatic decision many years ago to certify the GEO scanning sensor first because it's the baseline capability to replace DSP for missile warning. The scanning sensor is just about to final calibration, the last step before operational acceptance in the October/November timeframe.
Again, the data we're seeing from SBIRS GEO is very impressive, and NGA and NASIC are already developing applications in anticipation of ops acceptance.

This data is driving great cross-flow between the Intelligence Community and our operators in the battlespace awareness business.

The staring sensor is also delivering very impressive capability. It's able to detect targets 36 percent dimmer than requirements and its intensity accuracies are 60 percent better than specification.

It's not fully tuned or calibrated yet, but NGA, SMC, NASIC, and others are already developing algorithms based on the data we're getting so they'll be ready when the sensor is declared operational.

So, while the staring sensor data won't be formally certified for some time, I'm expecting great things from it even in the near term.

Now let's talk about GPS. GPS continues to provide tremendous service to literally the entire world.

We've progressed through five versions of our Block II design and we're about to make the move to a much more capable satellite, GPS III.

We've built an innovative, non-flying, but fully functional prototype vehicle for GPS III, and we're using that to work systems integration issues up front. This is intended to discover any manufacturing or design problems early so we can focus on manufacturing efficiencies during the production run.

GPS III will include an additional civilian signal that's compatible with the European Union's Galileo system.

It will also add capability for higher power on the military signals, thereby increasing our anti-jam capability.
And when we can force the adversary to higher power, bigger jammers, we call those targets.

While the space vehicle portion of the program is proceeding well, much like AEHF, the ground portion of the program is still a concern.

We'll be ready to launch the first GPS III in 2015, but it now appears the next generation GPS Operational Control System, or OCX, won't be ready for about a year or two after that.

Fortunately, we've developed a mitigation plan that will at least allow launch and some navigation payload control, but we need OCX as soon as possible to take full advantage of GPS III.
We'll also incorporate additional off-line tools and interfaces to fully exercise the bus and navigation payload during on-orbit checkout.

Our EELV program continues to progress, but challenges remain. We're working hard with United Launch Alliance to get costs under control, and we're simultaneously planning for new entrants to complete the certification process required to fly national security payloads.

Clearly, clearly mission success is our number one focus in this program, so we will continue to ensure mission assurance corners are not cut. Let me say that again, we will continue to ensure mission assurance corners are not cut.

With the expense of national security missions--not to mention the opportunity cost of lost capability--one launch failure can make the costs of mission assurance look awfully cheap. Finding the appropriate balance is our challenge.
We must get the cost down, but we don't want to be found guilty of messing with success.

So, those are some examples of where we're spending the money that is budgeted, and I think you'd have to agree that our foundational capability is well-protected.

That's quite a bit of commitment on those specific programs, and I believe we have a solid future path defined.

Would we like to have more money? Of course we would. But I firmly believe there is opportunity in this challenging budget environment.

When I spoke to this body last year, I cited the famous Churchill quote, "Gentlemen, we're out of money, now we must think."

Well, we're certainly not out of money: a $110 billion dollar Air Force still has plenty of fight left in it.

But we do have less money, and on the horizon is the threat of even less than we've planned for. So let me spend just a few minutes now describing our vision for the Command as we head down this road.

Last year, I talked about the need to look at smaller satellites, to consider disaggregation of our big satellites to increase our resiliency, and to decrease the cost of our major programs. And I expressed my belief that a nexus of those three things was possible.

Taking a page from the Operationally Responsive Space playbook, and thanks to some outstanding work by Lt Gen Pawlikowski and our folks at SMC, we are making progress in all these areas.

A lot of concern has been expressed on the cancellation of ORS in the FY13 President's Budget. I don't think those expressing concern fully appreciate just how much of the ORS philosophy is being captured in our future plans. Some specific examples.

As we think about the follow-on to our Space-based Space Surveillance satellite, we believe we have some much simpler designs that will decrease the size and cost of the replacement satellite.

I'm a huge believer in the capability of SBSS--so much so that I don't believe we should ever be without Space-Based Space Situational Awareness again.

SBSS collects an amazing amount of data in the GEO belt, constantly hoovering up the activity there.

But it doesn't take huge optics, nor does it take sophisticated on-board processing, to provide operationally relevant data. An ORS-class satellite may be just the ticket.
As we consider the replacement for our weather satellite program, DMSP, we believe we can satisfy our requirements with a much smaller satellite.

And as we're thinking about the smaller satellites, we're also thinking about using commercial buses to again drive down cost. And again, hats off to ORS for doing path finding work on standard busses and interfaces.

There is probably room for smaller GPS satellites in the overall constellation as we think through the requirements for the Nuclear Detonation Detection System size, weight, power and quantity.

Up in GEO, we believe separating strategic and tactical EHF capability can produce some much-needed resiliency benefits.
Smaller satellites, or even hosted payloads, for tactical protected comm is looking very attractive.

And finally, the data we're seeing from the Commercially Hosted IR Payload, or CHIRP, gives us reason to consider a missile warning sensor on a smaller satellite, or even hosted on a larger one, could also enhance survivability in an increasingly challenged space environment.

So, the bottom line here is the spirit of ORS lives, just in a different formulation. And I'm very supportive of this spirit going mainstream as opposed to maintaining a dedicated, niche program office. In fact, I would submit we're much stronger by inculcating ORS concepts and lessons learned across all our programs.

As I start to close, let me get away from platforms and give you some thoughts about what I see as an important shift in the emphasis of Air Force Space Command.

I believe we need to begin the process now of moving from a platform-focused Command to an information-focused Command.
Don't get me wrong, the platforms are absolutely essential now, and will continue to be so. But the platforms aren't the end-game. The eventual data products enabled by these platforms must be our ultimate focus.

But to truly shift toward decision-quality information, we must start looking at the satellites as merely sensors--or in the case of comsats, the relay--providing data needed by a host of users.

No criticism intended, but we've built wonderful constellations with dedicated ground systems that are finely tuned to service just the core function of that individual constellation.

What if we exposed the data from the appropriate constellations and made them available for other purposes?
If we expose the data properly, I believe we'll be amazed at what smart people will be able to do with it--our watchwords should be 'enabling discovery.'

Now it's necessary, but certainly not sufficient, to merely expose the data.
I think most, if not all of you in the audience, would agree that information is the coin of the realm these days, and while we certainly know how to produce lots of data, we're still learning how to sift vast amounts of data and turn it into decision-quality information.

We now take for granted that we'll have speed-of-light access to data wherever we are for warfighting purposes.
But let's be honest, it's just spam if you can't act on the data provided and turn it into decision-quality information for whomever needs it.

The addition of cyber responsibilities in our Command has certainly accelerated our thinking down this path. And as we just start to scratch the surface of the obvious synergies between the space and cyber domains, we need to begin thinking even more broadly.

Inside the Air Force alone, we have tremendous data producing machines in all three of our domains: air, space and cyberspace.

Now add to that the data from the other Services, from the Intelligence Community, and from any number of other sources.
It's a huge challenge just to manage all that data, find and process the keys pieces, and deliver the operational advantage that is available.

Now is the time for us to get after this data problem, now is the time for AFSPC to broaden our horizons.

We must develop the concepts and architectures that will ensure the United States Air Force takes full advantage of this data-rich world we find ourselves in today--and if we think we're data-rich today, just think about what tomorrow will bring.

As I wrap up here, I hope you'll agree the budget news for military space is actually pretty good--at least for now.

The foundational space programs which our military--and our Nation--depend on are on a good track, we have some great concepts for the future, and our vision for the future of this Command will certainly keep us busy.

We know the budgets will continue to be tight, we know there is no shortage of challenges in both the space and cyber domains, and we know we must adapt if we're going to be successful.

In short, we have plenty to keep us off the streets for the next several years.

Thank you for your attention today, and thanks again to the Space Foundation for the opportunity to talk about 30 years of service by Air Force Space Command.

Thank you very much.


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