DT Thompson angered by criticism of Air Force stewardship of space

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SN Military.Space Sandra Erwin

During hearings on Capitol Hill where the proposed Space Force has been a topic of discussion, lawmakers have not been shy about taking shots at the Air Force for doing a bad job managing space. It’s the reason many support the establishment of a Space Force: the Air Force doesn’t pay enough attention to space, and diverts resources from space to air programs.

Lt. Gen. David “DT” Thompson, the vice commander of Air Force Space Command, has found these criticisms offensive, according to remarks he gave Friday at a space industry gathering. News media was not allowed at the event. Two attendees shared their written notes with SpaceNews. 

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson became Air Force Space Command vice commander April 5. Credit: DoD
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson became Air Force Space Command vice commander April 5. Credit: DoD

According to these notes, Thompson said he was angered by some of the rhetoric he heard at congressional hearings about the Air Force’s stewardship of space. One criticism that especially upset Thompson, he told the audience, is that the Air Force is run by fighter pilots who don’t treat space appropriately.

Thompson said the Air Force has made huge efforts to elevate the space mission, according to the attendees. And he made a point that the work being done by the entire national security space sector — military, civilians and industry — is not being recognized.

Thompson noted that in the fiscal year 2020 budget, the Air Force requested a $2 billion increase for space, 17 percent more than the previous year. And over the 2020-2024 budget plan, he told the conference, the Air Force added $9.2 billion for space.

He also pushed back on suggestions that the Air Force dips into the space budget to buy F-35 fighter aircraft. That is not happening, Thompson told the audience. In fact, the Air Force is increasing space funding while other areas — such as global mobility aircraft and ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) — are lagging. The idea that the Air Force is robbing space to pay for other parts of the Air Force is not based on facts, Thompson insisted.

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