Ambassador Roger Harrison

Director, U.S. Air Force Center for Space and Defense Studies

T he U.S. Air Force has taken a number of steps to improve its space cadre, from new training courses for officers and enlisted personnel to setting a clearer career path for space professionals.

In May 2006, the service took a step toward improving the space education it provides junior officers when it expanded the space focus of the Air Force Academy’s Center for Defense Studies, now known as the Center for Space and Defense Studies. Roger Harrison, who was installed as the center’s top official, says that shift was appropriate given the increasing role of space in the Air Force’s mission portfolio today.

Harrison, a former diplomat who served as ambassador to Jordan from 1990 to 1993, and in diplomatic posts in Warsaw, London and Tel Aviv, said he welcomed the challenge of stoking cadets’ enthusiasm for space. Beyond that, Harrison hopes that the improved curriculum at the Air Force Academy can spread to non-military institutions to educate students who might some day join the military or work on space programs in industry.

As Harrison refines the curriculum, he is drawing on retired military leaders, as well as industry professionals, to shape the textbooks and other products being developed by the center.

Harrison talked about the Center for Space and Defense Studies during a Feb. 20 interview with Space News staff writer Jeremy Singer.

Where does the funding for the Center
come from?

We have sponsors within the military, like the Air Force Academy, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration. Air Force Space Command has contributed funding in the past.

We also receive some funding from the private sector. Northrop Grumman Corp. funded a summer program that brought together students from George Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Air Force Academy who were all interested in space studies and were then able to begin building relationships at a young age within the space community.

Much of the budget for 2007 came from money that Congress added to the defense budget, an effort that was championed by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)

How large is the budget now?

Before the focus on space, the center was focused on overseeing the publication of two textbooks — Comparative Defense Policy and American Defense Policy. The center at that time had an endowment of about $35,000, with an operating budget measured in the hundreds of dollars, which limited what it could do.

The budget for 2007 is about $600,000 — that’s the difference between being effective, and not. The additional money has helped pay for things like a full-time professor, travel and living expenses for student internships, and conferences.

Where do your students intern?

We pick out cadets from the hard sciences and social sciences, and send them to places where they can gain practical experience, like the Pentagon or the National Reconnaissance Office. We funded four interns last year, and plan to fund eight this year.

Some of them studied issues like domestic co-production of the RD-180 engine for the Atlas 5 rocket. Their conclusions may not have been ground-breaking, but they did have the chance to brief their work on a professional level to senior officials at the Pentagon, and carry on a dialog with those officials.

What will be covered in
Space Defense Policy, the new book you are planning

It’s a textbook that covers everything from space law to the view of small powers, to future competitors, to commercial space and economic issues. We tried to define a curriculum for space policy studies. We’re hoping to interest facilities around the country to teach space studies, and we’re giving them this textbook as a tool.

The textbook could also be used by businesses that deal with the government on space issues, and could use it to educate new employees. We’re trying to make it accessible to a broad audience so that even senior officials can get value from it. I think that any writing about politics should be accessible — if the writing is good, it should have value for a broad audience.

We’re going to try to keep the textbook current by updating chapters on our Web site with speeches, new events and breakthroughs. People reading the textbook can toggle a button for that chapter. We call it the “infinite appendix.”

What are some of the new products that you would like to introduce?

We’re trying to develop a war game that cadets can play where they sign in on computers, and run through various scenarios, and are scored on their performance. At the end of the year, we could have a “top gun” competition for operating satellites, dealing with threats to satellites — the whole range of things that they will have to deal with while on active duty. It could also help give them the sense that space can be an exciting career.

Who provides
guidance for your program

We have drawn on a number of retired senior military space leaders who are working with us on an unpaid basis. Peter B. Teets, the former undersecretary of the Air Force, provides stern but benevolent leadership as our distinguished chairman. Our senior advisors include Jay Garner, a retired Army lieutenant general who had served as assistant vice chief of staff of the Army and commander of Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Thomas Moorman, who served as commander of Air Force Space Command and vice chief of staff of the Air Force; and Ronald Fogleman, a former general who had served as chief of staff of the Air Force.

We have also gotten ideas and guidance from people like John Logsdon, executive director of the George Washington University Space Policy Institute, and Joanne Maguire, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

We solicit ideas from them, and they help us stay relevant with our research and programming, and suggest areas where we can dig deeper. It’s a real source of strength for us and something that didn’t exist two years ago .

Does the Center have an audience beyond younger students?

Yes. It includes people like the experts in think tanks and industry who are looking at issues like the rising challenge from China and how that should affect U.S. space policy and programs. We host working groups that sponsor informal sessions that bring together people from think tanks, policymakers and industry who don’t normally connect.

Was China on your agenda before their test of an anti-satellite weapon in January?

Yes. We had a small-scale working group that included people from places like the Office of the Secretary of Defense, NASA, industry and academia who met for a few days in June. We’d like to do that again this year; obviously with the anti-satellite test, it’s on everyone’s mind.

The Center hosted a conference in January that featured significant participation from groups like the Stimson Center, the Center for Defense Information and the Union of Concerned Scientists, all organizations that have been very critical of the Air Force’s space work . Why were they included?

We don’t take sides on policy issues. We’re facilitators, and want to include anybody. We want to create awareness. People on one side of some of the issues sometimes don’t mix much with people from the other side. We strive to be a forum for the entirety of the debate.

those people play a role in your other products?

Yes. Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, was an author in the first edition of our journal, which focused on America’s future. It showed a variety of views. Baker Spring, a research fellow in national security at the Heritage Foundation was another author. They don’t present a similar view.