U.S. Air Force Expanding Space Education Curriculum

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The U.S. Air Force is planning a new series of advanced space-related courses this autumn geared toward lieutenant colonels and senior noncommissioned officers, according to the service official managing the effort.

The new Space 300 curriculum will include classes that examine space policy and law, said Air Force Col. Cal Hutto, chief of assignments and readiness at Air Force Space Command.

The Air Force already has two series of courses for lower-ranking personnel called Space 100 and Space 200. Space 100 , which grew out of a modified curriculum at the Air Education and Training Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, began in October 2004 and offers an introduction to developing and operating space systems.

Space 200, intended for officers with eight to 10 years of experience , began a year earlier, and examines the role of space within the other military services as well as the activities of civilian agencies like NASA. Space 200 now is taught at the military’s National Security Space Institute here. Space 300 also will be taught at the institute starting in September or October, Hutto said in an April 4 interview at Peterson Air Force Base here.

The new curricula were created in response to the recommendations of an independent commission on military space that was chaired by Donald Rumsfeld prior to his December 2000 nomination to serve as secretary of defense . The “Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization ” called on each of the military services to revamp the way they train and manage space personnel, both in the officer corps and in the enlisted ranks.

While the commission found room for improvement in the Air Force’s space training and education , the service is not starting from scratch, according to Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, vice commander of Air Force Space Command.

“While it was in response to some criticisms of the space leadership, it’s not a do-over,” Leaf said in an April 4 interview. The Air Force has developed a significant number of “very fine” colonels and generals with space expertise over the years, he said.

Space 100 and Space 200 have proven quite popular thus far, with more troops seeking to enroll than there are slots available , Leaf said. These courses are open to personnel from each of the military services, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves, he said.

Air Force Space Command also is looking for relevant educational opportunities outside the military in universities, Hutto said. But training and coursework involving classified subject matter will need to remain within the military, he said.

Space 200 includes information that is classified as secret — the lowest level of classification, while Space 300 likely will include material and training that is more sensitive , Hutto said.

Air Force Space Command also wants to ensure that its space courses do not become outdated, Hutto said. To that end, command officials are meeting with senior officers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq to incorporate the lessons learned in those theaters and ensure that space-system operators are up to date on what is needed by forces in the field, he said.

Hutto stressed that the courses are not just to familiarize students with satellites and rockets. Space-service providers also need to know how satellites operate in concert with other military systems to assist troops in ground vehicles or aircraft, he said.

Improving the training for space personnel is not without risks, Hutto said. Better-educated officers are more attractive to defense contractors who can lure them away with the promise of higher pay, he said.

On the other hand, some troops might stay in the military longer if they enjoyed the increased level of space education, Hutto said. The military could even benefit from personnel lost to the private sector, because those people could help contractors better understand the military’s space system requirements, he said.