COLORADO SPRINGS — Anyone who has been away from the national security space business for a while and is now just coming back would not recognize it, say senior military officials. In the past few months alone, the Trump administration has made space a top national security concern. And the rhetoric is being followed by bigger budgets.
This is a time of “historic change,” said Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command.
In a keynote speech on Tuesday at the 34thSpace Symposium. Raymond said he sees unprecedented high-level focus on space and “space friendly budgets.” This is also a time of never-before-seen collaboration between the military and the intelligence community on space modernization and strategies to deter and compete against growing space powers like Russia and China.
“There is a strategic alignment of leadership and resources,” Raymond said. The military’s partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office is helping “give us a clear and better understanding of the potential threats and the implications of the threats,” he said. “A new concept of operations we wrote with the NRO provided us the sheet music on how we are going to fight.”
Raymond said: “We are making bold shifts toward war fighting and space superiority.”
He had effusive praise for Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein for working to “normalize” space, so it is given as much importance as air warfare. Raymond was especially taken by Goldfein’s remarks in February at the Air Force air warfare symposium in Orlando. He read verbatim from Goldfein’s speech: “It is time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.”
In airman’s terms, said Raymond, “We have made a 9G turn toward space superiority.
Space Command plans to increase the frequency of “Space Flag” exercises from twice to three times a year. And many efforts are being ramped up in the training and education of space operators, said Raymond. “These accomplishments are enabled significantly by a new budget that was very friendly to space.”
The administration requested $12.5 billion in fiscal year 2019 for unclassified national security space, more than $1 billion than it had asked for in 2018. Tens of billions more are in classified budgets.
One of national security space best-known champions, Gen. John Hyten, summed it up in remarks on Tuesday:
“Here at the Space Symposium, in less than 24 hours you have seen the vice president of the United States, the secretary of commerce, the acting administrator of NASA, the director of the NRO,” Hyten said. “And one of most amazing things you see, from the vice president all the way down, is you see alignment of purpose, alignment of vision, alignment of leadership.”
In national security space this alignment is even more pronounced, Hyten said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Undersecretary for Acquisition Ellen Lord, Undersecretary for Research Mike Griffin, “They are all aligned on the need to recapture the lead and go fast.” To top it off, there is now a vice commander of Space Command, Lt. Gen. David Thompson “going into the Pentagon as what I see as the last piece of the puzzle,” Hyten said. “He will bring Space Command expertise into the building, he will bring people together at the Pentagon so we can go forward quickly,” Hyten added. “It’s an amazing alignment of leadership.”