During her Senate confirmation hearing two years ago en route to becoming secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James shied away from the most pointed questions related to military space. The longtime SAIC executive previously worked as a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, and as such had a deep resume on broad defense matters.

But the inner workings of national security space were largely unfamiliar to her.

She has proved to be a quick study, however. Since her confirmation in December 2013, James has taken the lead on several high-profile and controversial military space issues including the certification of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch military satellites and Air Force efforts to develop a new American-made rocket engine. “I like to think I know a lot more now than I did then,” she says.

James spoke with SpaceNews military space reporter Mike Gruss late last week about her expanded role in space, navigating the current budget environment, and renewed space protection efforts.

This video presentation is made possible through support from Intelsat General Corp.