U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) now is center stage within the joint military community with mission responsibilities that demand innovative thinking and enhanced inter-agency relationships to address our nation’s increasingly complex security needs.

In addition to being the steward of our nation’s nuclear deterrent posture, Stratcom has become a global integrator tasked with the missions of space operations; information operations; integrated missile defense; global command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and global strike. And to top it off, U.S. Stratcom is charged with combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This is truly a mission set that is breathtaking in its sweep and scope. As full partners with Stratcom in these crucial national security missions, those of us in the space community must respond by expanding our thinking and approaches to effectively assist Stratcom in addressing this daunting array of responsibilities.

Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Stratcom’s commander, speaks eloquently about the need for government, academic and industry innovations, emphasizing the need for actionable and timely information and data that is accessible to properly authorized people within our national security enterprise.

America’s space assets currently provide capabilities that serve myriad national security needs: from access to otherwise denied areas and activities; to underpinning intelligence assessments; to supporting national level decision-making; to preparing for military intervention and conducting wartime operations; to enforcing the negotiated terms and conditions for peace.

But the space community can do more — must do more — by providing near real-time, standards-based data that can be integrated with other diverse information sources to yield more useful, more timely knowledge.

We are mindful that our space assets are only as valuable as the responsive service they provide to national-level decision-making and joint military operations. Thwarting today’s and tomorrow’s adversaries requires insight into not only their activities, but networks and relationships on a scale far broader, deeper and more granular than we envisioned in the past. And it requires the ability to respond on timelines that are orders of magnitude faster than we are accustomed to.

This new reality demands that our community reinvent the very framework used to provide up-to-the-minute, comprehensive knowledge about rapidly evolving situations around the globe to our decision-makers.

For those of us in the space business, this means being relentless in seeking out and liberating silo-ed information that — when combined with other information — can enhance overall situational awareness. It means we must resist the temptation to squander our intellectual energies on advocating for unique stove piped capabilities and focus instead on unlocking the values of synergistic effects.

It also means cultivating technologies and capabilities that transcend time and circumstance to provide undeniable global access to information so that it is always available to decision-makers and far superior to what is available to any adversary.

To facilitate this effort we need to expand government, industry and academic partnerships to coalesce a diverse set of organizations and skills to advance high-level, knowledge-based system solutions.

At Lockheed Martin, for example, we are adapting our thinking away from single-minded focus on individual programs and platforms and toward enabling infrastructure that links systems holistically to provide the capabilities our customers need and deserve.

For example, we can’t just focus on a communications spacecraft such as Advanced Extra High Frequency (AEHF), or T-Sat (Transformational Satellite Communications System) or the Mobile User Objective System . Instead, we must look at the bigger picture of network operations and global command, control and communications that best serve the broader national security need.

Likewise programs like Space Based Infrared System and Space Radar are important in their own right, but I am confident Gen. Cartwright and his team are far more concerned about the overarching need for situational and battlespace awareness.

The Theater High-Altitude Area Defense , Airborne Laser and Multiple Kill Vehicle programs are important elements of missile defense, but their utility to U.S. Stratcom is ultimately bound up in their role in supporting a comprehensive Integrated Missile Defense architecture.

In the arena of Global Strike, we are hard at work leveraging our expertise on Trident Ballistic Missile System and re-entry vehicles to develop much-needed prompt Global Strike capabilities, like Conventional Trident Missile.

There are critical competencies embedded throughout our industry, and it is mandatory that we align with U.S. Stratcom to design, create, acquire and, most importantly, integrate the very best effects-based architectures and systems.

Such systems require that data from a wide range of sources be collected, analyzed, integrated and exploited swiftly across joint and national-level operations.

I cannot overemphasize the word “swiftly.” In short, time is the currency of future security — and we must advance the responsiveness and adaptability of our space and ground systems with our customers to satisfy this need for speed.

Among other things, this necessitates virtually unconstrained bandwidth to enable collaboration in joint and interagency planning; information assurance to protect those data streams; the ability to combine, display, analyze and corroborate information across sensors/platforms and customer sets; all in order to develop and share the common operating picture.

I call it being able to connect the dots, and as Gen. Cartwright has said, future wars and attacks will be avoided or won by leveraging our information superiority.

Space will be essential to connecting the dots.

The key roles for sp ace are global connectivity and assured all-weather, day/night, deep-look intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. But beyond fixating on the next cool space widget, we are investing our time and resources on key enablers.

We are working on absolutely reliable, secure space communications drawing upon our AEHF, Milstar, the Defense Satellite Communications System and commercial satellite communications experiences.

Prompt global strike demands capabilities in guidance, navigation and control, communications, thermal management and weapons-related technologies, so that’s where we’re focusing our energies.

To enable spacecraft that are adaptable and responsive in orbit requires expertise in advanced processing in space and on the ground. To have truly interconnected, collaborative space assets demands advances in space networking that can interconnect with the Global Information Grid and all government networks.

Making the next-generation remote sensing a reality will require calls for the great strides we are making in such areas as laser radar.

But innovation need not be limited to technologies and products. It can extend to business models as well, as exemplified in our highly successful partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory on XSS-11. And it can extend to architectures like the ANGELS (Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian Evaluating Local Space) constellation of nanosatellites in the future or the progress we are making in integrated air/space sensor suites.

In summary, we see in U.S. Stratcom under Gen. Cartwright’s leadership, a partner with a passion for invention, impatient for the capabilities this nation needs to ensure security in the 21st century. We in the space community have an obligation to up our game to match our partner Stratcom’s level of play.

Joanne M. Maguire is executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and a board member of the Space Foundation.
This commentary is adapted from her Oct. 11 speech in Omaha, Neb., at Strategic Space and Defense 2006 sponsored by Space News and the Space Foundation.