Once upon a time there was a dear little chicken named Chicken Little. One morning as she was scratching in her garden, a pebble fell off the roof and hit her on the head. "Oh, dear me!" she cried, "The sky is falling. I must go and tell the King," and away she ran down the road.
The fable of Chicken Little has many versions. In some, she is saved by the King or another altruistic entity. In most, she and her colleagues are eaten by the evil Foxy Loxy. In my fable, however, the sky is not falling on Chicken Little—but that sky is receding at an ever increasing pace.
In the 1980s and 1990s, space capabilities, and in particular their security-related aspects, were all the rage. In the 1980s, the United States was mounting a major missile defense program based largely on space capabilities. The Strategic Defense Initiative promised to lead to the end of the Cold War, and many experts believe it did. Our civil space program was beginning to fly the space shuttle, a reusable space transportation system that was heralded as ushering in a new era of space access and expansion. In the 1990s, commercial space programs such as the global space communications system Iridium were touted as the first step toward explosive growth for commercial space endeavors. Perhaps most significant was the apparent realization of the central role that space would play in national security. The bipartisan 1999 Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization (the Rumsfeld Commission, named after its chairman, Donald Rumsfeld) resulted in huge growth in national security space spending and sweeping reorganization and centralization of national security space endeavors.1
Alas, none of the ambitious prospects for space appear to have been met. Our missile defense systems have little to do with space capabilities; indeed, the entire program has effectively been transferred to the U.S. Army's ground-oriented management. The space shuttle has not met its promise and is being phased out in favor of the older Apollo approach. Most communications systems now rely on global fiber connections and not commercial space capabilities. And practically all of the Rumsfeld Commission's space recommendations have been abandoned.
Of growing concern is what is going on outside the United States. Several states have expressed alarm over an alleged U.S. space weapons program. While these nations, particularly China and Russia, know that little is going on in this area, they have enjoyed stirring up international outrage for their own purposes. While this may seem harmless enough in the short term, it could itself be an impetus or perhaps an excuse for others to mount a counterspace effort of their own. In the past, such challenges to U.S. space utilization might have seemed laughable, but that is not so today.
Many nations are mounting impressive programs in space technology and utilization. Key to these efforts has been the development of so-called microsatellites and low-cost means of getting them into space. The pioneer in this technology has been Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd. (SSTL) at the University of Surrey.2 Part of SSTL's success has been its programs to assist other nations develop small (100-kilogram-class) space systems. Over a dozen nations have benefited from SSTL collaborations. Today, for less than $20 million, just about any nation can build and launch a satellite capable of significant security-related functions such as 1-meter-class imagery.
While the rest of the world aggressively develops these low-cost systems, the United States is increasingly mired in cost overruns and failed space systems. Practically every major U.S. security-related system is grossly overrun and significantly behind schedule. Moreover, with some exceptions (mostly driven by congressional insistence), the U.S. security community has shown little interest in small, fast-paced space systems.
Part of the U.S. malaise stems from rather uninspired leadership in military space system development and operation. Most military space discussions begin with something along the lines of "support to the war fighter." This attitude has led to the perspective that space capabilities, and correspondingly military space leaders, are secondary to "warfighters." The U.S. Air Force highlights its combat pilots, not its space engineers. This is not the type of environment that will attract aggressive, creative leaders.3 The first premise of this chapter is that the primary value of space capabilities is not their support to warfighters; rather, it is that they are the primary means for war prevention through the forging of collaborative international security arrangements.
Interestingly, SSTL has developed an impressive prototype for future use of space systems for security purposes: cooperative international space security measures based on small satellites. The SSTL-inspired and -led Disaster Monitoring Constellation consists of five microsatellites built and launched by Algeria, China, Nigeria, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.4 Each satellite obtains wide-area 36-meter imagery with planned improvements to 4-meter resolution. The member states get frequent revisit imagery suitable for detecting and managing responses to natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Key for the purposes of this discussion is the postulate that such systems represent a broader meaning of security and a new means to link diverse states in a common security endeavor. The United States would do well to learn from this success and find ways to involve itself in and lead such future cooperative ventures.
One such possibility for cooperative international leverage is the new U.S. "Vision for Space Exploration." As with the Apollo program of the 1960s, the new space exploration initiative, involving the goal of permanent international settlements on other worlds, has considerable security-related possibilities.
Significantly, space capabilities such as precision positioning, navigation, and timing through such systems as the global positioning system (GPS) have become true global utilities. Protecting and expanding these capabilities, which are critical elements in global economic lynchpins such as transportation and communication, are in the global interest. A new security regime based on shared global utilities, including long-term goals such as space exploration and settlement, offers the United States a new opportunity to lead international security regimes. Aggressive U.S. development of technology—for example, distributed small space systems such as microsatellites—is key.
The United States prides itself on its space leadership, particularly in the security use of space. Indeed, it regards space as critical to its overall national security stature. The National Space Policy reiterates this importance when it states, "United States national security is critically dependent upon space capabilities, and this dependence will grow."5
The United States also recognizes that its space stature is being challenged by many nations. The Rumsfeld Commission noted:
The relative dependence of the U.S. on space makes its space systems potentially attractive targets. Many foreign nations and non-state entities are pursuing space-related activities. Those hostile to the U.S. possess, or can acquire on the global market, the means to deny, disrupt or destroy U.S. space systems by attacking satellites in space, communications links to and from the ground or ground stations that command the satellites and process their data. Therefore, the U.S. must develop and maintain intelligence collection capabilities and an analysis approach that will enable it to better understand the intentions and motivations as well as the capabilities of potentially hostile states and entities.6
This concern is translated in many minds, particularly those of national security space professionals, as a direct military challenge. However it does not appear that direct threats are the only, or perhaps even the most severe, ones.
Many nations are developing significant dual-use capabilities that meet both security and other, often commercial and scientific, purposes. Other nations frequently have a broader view of security than just military concerns, to include economic and environmental aspects. Particularly within Europe, perspectives about military space are both uncertain and rapidly changing. In the multipolar world that emerged after the Cold War, security issues that were originally military driven have become more complicated. As European roles in the world grow, particularly peacekeeping roles outside the continent, the need for space system support in such areas as communications and navigation also grows.
The emerging technology of small, low-cost space systems (micro-satellites) is changing the dynamic. Microsatellites are 100-to 200-kilogram systems that cost approximately $5 million to $20 million to construct. Coupled with low-cost space launch, generally provided as a piggyback payload on a larger booster, the entire mission cost is $10 million to $30 million—an order of magnitude less costly than conventional space missions. Using new off-the-shelf technology, these microsatellites can perform many of the security-related functions that formerly required large, expensive systems. For example, several nations are now producing microsatellites with 1-meter imagery resolution and significant signals intelligence functions. SSTL, a world leader in developing this capability, has led a global revolution in using the new, more affordable technology not only in Europe but also around the world. While microsatellites probably will not totally supplant large space systems, they can certainly perform many functions currently done by such large systems and could work in concert with them to provide extended capabilities—particularly in the context of shared international constellations such as the Disaster Monitoring Constellation.
The trend toward smaller, more affordable space capabilities has enabled European nations and others to produce significant security capabilities within individual nations' space budgets. Examples of this approach are embodied in the German Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)– Lupe imaging satellite system and others now under development.7 The proliferation of this new national capability offers a new set of opportunities for use of space systems in security modes.
The U.S. challenge in space is more than a strictly military one. The use of smaller, lower cost systems for a series of dual-use purposes is the real challenge. Meeting it will require a change in both the mindset of our security professionals as well as in technological direction—toward small, affordable dual-use systems with direct applicability to economic and environmental security as well as collective security.
Nowhere is the trend toward small, internationally available capabilities more noticeable than in high resolution imaging and synthetic aperture radar systems. Most new efforts (see figure 30–1) are non-U.S. and/or wholly commercial endeavors. The U.S. national security community clearly no longer has a monopoly or even a lead role in this important area.
The U.S. security community's recent track record compares unfavorably to the impressive work being done internationally. The American focus on large, complicated systems may have been well founded in the Cold War, but in light of the rest of the world's success in smaller, more affordable space systems, the wisdom of maintaining this direction is dubious. More to the point, the United States is increasingly unable to even field these large systems.
Figure 30–1. Timetable: High Resolution and Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellites
In the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force launched the world's first comprehensive missile warning program, the Defense Support Program. These satellites carry infrared sensors that see the heat of a missile launch. In the 1980s, the United States began developing a follow-on system, now named the Space-based Infra-red System (SBIRS), which was intended to replace the Defense Support Program missile warning satellites with more capable and sensitive sensors. It was also intended to support comprehensive missile defenses. The first SBIRS satellites were to be launched in the early 1990s. Today, after at least a $20 billion expenditure, we are years away from a working system.8 Moreover, SBIRS is no longer capable of supporting comprehensive missile defenses, and the system is by no means the exception. Other major programs, such as next-generation weather satellites (the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System [NPOESS]), are seriously behind schedule and considerably overrun.9
Congress is increasingly critical of the U.S. national security community and has insisted that it pay more attention to small, low-cost "responsive" space systems. The responsive feature is the ability to respond to crises inside an adversary's act-react cycle as well as being a more effective response to direct military threats. The ability to quickly replace a lost space capability might prove a much better deterrent to foreign space military challenges than various forms of active space control, particularly when most potential adversaries have little reliance on space capabilities themselves.
Congress has now mandated an Operationally Responsive Space program. Its rationale is impeccable. Consider the statement by Terry Everett (R–AL), chairman of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee:
We must also embrace innovative ways to advance our strategic enterprise. One innovative approach to getting key space capabilities into the hands of our military forces is Operationally Responsive Space (O-R-S). O-R-S is an effort to develop smaller, less expensive satellites that can launch on short notice to meet the immediate needs of the warfighter.
In this year's  defense bill, Congress created a joint O-R-S program office, bringing together: Science and technology; Acquisition; Operations; and Warfighter support. With this effort, I see a stronger national security space portfolio where O-R-S systems complement large traditional space programs.
For this Office to be successful it must retain a strong joint core, bringing together leaders and participants from across the Services, Agencies, research labs, and industry. It must also create an environment that expects and rewards innovation.
I said earlier that the strain of rising costs and affordability will continue to put pressure on our space and defense programs. At the same time, technologies are evolving at much higher rates than our current ten-plus year acquisition timelines. Therefore, I see two key thrusts to O-R-S: First, it is a means to get simple, low cost solutions rapidly on-orbit to meet the dynamic needs of our combatant commanders; Secondly, it provides more frequent opportunities to prove-out innovative concepts and technologies at a lower cost, while strengthening our industrial base and technical workforce. I've said low-cost twice. I can't emphasize this enough; we must control the costs of our space programs.10
The national security space community's internal problems stem largely from a variety of "red herring" excuses for the community's shortcomings. As detailed in a paper by Randall Correll and this author, many excuses have been given, from masking symptoms for causes such as citing immature technologies and lack of good requirements definition, claiming insufficient system engineering expertise, poor cost analysis, shifting incumbent contractors, and others. The paper places the blames squarely on poor, often technically unqualified, leadership.11
Our bad national security space posture stems from two major difficulties. First, we have not developed a coherent strategy, and second, we have developed neither a cadre of qualified experts to lead it nor the necessary space capabilities to support it. What follows is a prescription for remedying this, starting with a coherent strategy.12
Coherent Security Space Strategy
Progress in information technologies has completely reshaped the way humans communicate. The globalization of the economy and culture and the growing importance of worldwide information (such as the Internet) and human (such as al Qaeda) networks have changed relationships between not only people but also states from an exclusive to an inclusive paradigm. In this new era, it is often in the interest of all parties to cooperate with rather than oppose each other. This does not imply that competition has disappeared, but it has changed in nature, being more strongly related to confidence-building and "win-win" strategies.
This new paradigm fits well with space capabilities that are inherently global in nature. Investments are often too costly for a single nation to make. The new developments in space capabilities may enable new security regimes. These possibilities generally come under the heading of soft power. The new options involve shaping the global environment to maximize collective security. They also entail changes in space policy on the part of various nations. Several approaches are possible in this direction.
The world has entered an era of global utilities: capabilities, generally in the information collection and distribution regimes, that enable the emerging global economy, culture, and society. First among them is the Internet, followed closely by global positioning, navigation, and timing systems such as GPS and the European Galileo. Note that the GPS conceived in the 1980s remains exclusive to the U.S. Government, whereas Galileo is more collaborative, including major players outside of the European Union such as India and China.
Other global utilities include global communications grids and global situation awareness such as imaging. New possibilities in this area include identification and tracking of moving objects such as aircraft. Many of these utilities grew out of military needs, but they have become the glue that holds the global economy and culture together. Almost all global utilities depend in some part on space capabilities. Even the Internet uses space systems for many of its long-range communications connections and precision timing. The breakdown of even one satellite can have devastating consequences to the global economy. In 1998, a failure of a single communications satellite carrying remote pager signals plunged much of North America into an unexpected business "holiday."13
The first and possibly most potent element of soft power is inclusion in global utility services. Inclusion of a nation, group of nations, or even private concerns in the development of a global utility such as Galileo is a potent inducement for a desired behavior. Europe's experience with China and its inclusion in Galileo is a positive demonstration of this potential. Once connected by the utility, the parties have a strong mutual interest in protecting and advancing it. This provides a lever to bind and influence diverse interests. Finally, the possibility of being denied access to one or more global utilities in response to aggression by a state can be a compelling dissuasion from embarking on a hostile tack. Without global information support mechanisms, a nation would find its economy swiftly devastated.
A related concept to global utilities is the rising importance of a global information connectivity or infosphere. The rise of a global information marketplace, largely originating in the Internet, is apparent. Although some of the explosive growth of the 1990s has slowed, the Internet is still the fastest growing impetus to global commerce. Equally important is its role as a marketplace of ideas—a two-edged sword, as the Internet has become a medium through which modern terrorist groups recruit members and plan acts. Yet the global infosphere could also mean the end of narrow, fundamentalist ideologies. Modern terrorists do best recruiting among disillusioned and often isolated young individuals. These same individuals might have been recruited and organized through the Internet, but that same medium can and will also expose them to broader and more inclusive philosophies.
A second element of future soft power is to connect the world into a global infosphere. Again, confidence building is a key driver. Space capabilities are integral to this linkage to build cohesion and shared values as space communications segments are the only way to reach much of the developing world. Indeed, India's interest in space began as a way to link remote regions and foster development and education across the entire society. India's success in forming a coherent and rapidly developing nation out of diverse peoples and traditions can be partly attributed to building this space-based connectivity.14
With the emergence of low-cost space capabilities such as those developed by SSTL, numerous nations can now afford space developments. However, one or even a handful of low Earth orbit satellites provides limited capability, whereas constellations of small satellites can provide significant capability. If a group of nations pools their efforts, each one providing a single satellite, all can benefit from a new space capability. The Disaster Monitoring Constellation discussed earlier is a prototype of such a multinational system. This cooperation represents a third approach to soft power—a means whereby smaller nations can pool capabilities to provide significant new space options. In the process of building the capability, the member nations also build technology interdependence and open new economic opportunities in other spheres.
The concept of collective security is a longstanding one. During the Cold War, both competing blocs established collective security arrangements where an attack on one party would be met with a response from all. This was particularly effective for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); its collective defense arrangements kept the peace in Europe for almost half a century. Only with the end of the Cold War did conflict again break out on the European continent. Yet even with the disturbances in the former Yugoslavia, NATO's collective response has proven effective. Part of the key to collective security is in the pooling of defense resources, but even more important are the perception aspects of collective security arrangements. A potential aggressor must face the prospect of united defense against him. The psychological and societal impact of standing alone against united opposition is a significant factor in preventing war and aggression. A similar concept is especially applicable to global space security.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of cooperative international space development is its symbolic value as a pathfinder for other agendas. During the Cold War, space cooperation in the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz test project became a symbolic first in an attempt to lead to broader cooperation in arms control and other security and economic issues. The symbolic role of civil space cooperation truly blossomed in the International Space Station. Despite the political difficulties of building and maintaining such a complex space effort, its symbolic value to both governments and people has carried it through. It has been particularly valuable as a means whereby the United States and Russia have been able to divert technical expertise (particularly within Russia immediately after the end of the Cold War) from missile proliferation endeavors. In a similar vein, a European Community European Space Program is viewed by many as the path to broader European unity. Recently, the United States and India have used civil space cooperation as a step in building closer ties for united action against terrorism. With the major new U.S. push for human exploration of the Moon and Mars, cooperative programs in these areas could similarly prove to be effective vanguards for other agendas.
This approach is not without its problems. Space technology is inherently dual-use, with advances in space providing new military possibilities. Moreover, space technology is often the impetus of and source for new economic products and markets, particularly in the important aerospace field. These considerations are particularly central to U.S. policy. A nation has the choice of ignoring other nations' space exploration interests, dominating mankind's expansion into the solar system, or cooperatively leading the world into the solar system. The United States has chosen the third option. Working to establish consensus on space exploration among numerous global partners could slow progress. However, an open space exploration architecture such as that advocated by Randall Correll and Nicolas Peter would allow nations to proceed at their own pace without sacrificing future opportunities for collaboration.15
Space is an important component of global economic development. Space-reliant global utilities such as global positioning, communications, and situation awareness are critical to modern economic development. Communications connectivity is particularly important to remote regions. With new Ka band connectivity, high-speed Internet is available and affordable worldwide. Direct broadcast radio provided by such commercial concerns can bring education and information to even the most disadvantaged peoples. By offering these critical capabilities worldwide, a nation or group of nations will take a major step in providing the means for rapid economic development as well as building global cohesiveness. No element of soft power is more significant than the information-enabling aspect and its associated free exchange of information and ideas.
Space information connectivity may be the key element in combating terrorism, which thrives in regions with little outside information and few economic opportunities. Global information connectivity is a powerful tool for combating both problems. The country of Jordan is a primary example of the power of a successful information strategy and its effect on terrorist activities. In the mid 1990s, Jordan embarked on an aggressive, private sector–oriented information and Internet connectivity campaign.16 Although still in progress, this campaign is succeeding in connecting schools, businesses, and publics nationwide. It is significant that terrorist attacks against U.S. targets in Jordan were met with wide public outrage there and strong support for Jordan's Western-oriented government.
The first significant philosophical result of deep-space exploration in the 1960s was the view of the entire Earth as a small, interconnected entity. This global awareness continues today with new technology such as the Internet bringing the global perspective to each individual through such tools as Google Earth.17 Geospatial data is now accessible not only to top-level decisionmakers but also to media and the general public. Every citizen with Internet capability can now access and assess what is happening locally as well as globally. This global perspective will have a huge impact on governments and their decisionmaking. From it will emerge new influences on national policies: a new form of soft power. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's collaboration with Google to include the Moon and Mars in the products of Google Earth is an example of how governments can work with private sector entities to further the new global perspective.18 These efforts should pay off not only in expanding space exploration but also in enhancing U.S. soft power influence.
Over and above space exploration and space science, systems such as the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation and European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security are at the forefront of a different definition of security. The security aspects of collaborative efforts offer new opportunities to build soft power influence. By promoting a new strategy where space and associated global utilities function as the primary elements of our security posture rather than as support to warfighters, we could once again attract the best and brightest to space fields.
Developing Leaders and Supporting Systems
A major problem discussed by Correll and Worden is the lack of competent leadership for our national security space programs.19 There are a number of interconnected issues. First is the intensive requirements process, which has resulted in a cadre of "space professionals" whose expertise is in procurement rather than technical competence. This in turn has produced an aerospace industry dominated by those versed not in technological prowess but in meeting procurement regulations. Often, these corporate leaders are recently retired military leaders. The solution to this problem is to insist on technological competence as a prerequisite for leadership.
Even a change of leadership toward technical excellence will accomplish little if the mindset of technical leaders is one of maintaining the status quo. In today's dynamic new industries such as information technology and biotechnology, growing attention has been paid to what is called disruptive technologies.20 By paying slavish attention to customers—in the case of the national security space community, warfighters—many technologically oriented industries fail to recognize that a new technology that may not interest current customers could offer a way to develop a new, much larger client base. The new disruptive technologies for security space possibilities are small, responsive, information-oriented space systems. The new customers are practitioners of soft power information operations designed for war prevention and not warfighting. As with industries confronted with disruptive technologies, a separate organization that is chartered specifically to ignore current customers is needed. The space community does not have such an organization but desperately needs a disruptive technology development arm.
A major problem is the aging of the aerospace workforce. With an average employee age of near 50 (as compared to an average age of under 30 during the Apollo era), the U.S. aerospace industry is in crisis. Moreover, there is significant evidence that neither industry nor government is able to replace the retiring infrastructure with comparable talent.21 This problem stems from a perception that aerospace technologies are yesterday's excitement, with much greater future potential in new areas such as bio- and nanotechnology. Moreover, with security space programs in the doldrums and little chance for advancement based on technical prowess, these programs and associated industries are unlikely to attract the top people. For the general aerospace industry, the new "Vision for Space Exploration," with its goal of settling the solar system, could provide a much-needed and exciting new perspective. A similar impetus would exist for security space endeavors with a new strategic purpose. However, to be convincing and sustainable, this new direction must be accompanied by a revised organizational structure. These three basic recommendations are expanded upon below.
Our problems begin with the requirements process mentality. The current acquisition approach grew out of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System of the 1960s. Since then, the defense community has built an enormous construct to develop requirements and budget for achieving them. Every time a new system fiasco occurs, a new review process and bureaucratic overlay are added. One such overlay occurred during the 1990s when the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff implemented a whole new process, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. Carefully considering what a new system is supposed to do and what capabilities it must have, in itself, is advisable. However, the current process does not seem to do that. Most of the people staffing these requirements process offices have little technical, acquisition, or management experience. Few have the breadth of background and perspective to understand what is really needed and how it will be used. But each office can and does have the power to halt the process. Usually, a program is held up until every office is satisfied that its special interest item is included. Few have any idea of the feasibility of adding their demands, let alone the cost of doing so. There is supposed to be a process to accurately assess the cost of the requirements and capabilities, but it is bankrupt. With leadership and workforce so short on technical expertise or engineering experience, the government repeatedly deludes itself into believing that a require-ments-laden system can be built on time and on budget. This tendency to swell the scope and budget of programs is inherent in the military-industrial complex even in the best of circumstances, but experienced and competent management is usually able to deliver in the end.
The response to recent space acquisition problems of the lead Service for space, the U.S. Air Force, has been to emphasize the acquisition process. Primary focus has been on repeated bouts of acquisition reform, back-to-basics campaigns, and other methods. In 2006, this translated to large cuts in technical engineering specialties among Air Force officers with increases in system engineering and acquisition expertise without relevant space technical experience.22 Nowhere is the problem worse than in the Air Force space programs.
The lack of technological competence in security space leadership is simple to fix. The first step is to demand that all leaders in military and security space programs begin with a certified technical grounding. While the U.S. Air Force and other Services and organizations continuously emphasize developing and certifying a space cadre,23 the actual educational programs and requirements do not include rigorous engineering and scientific content; rather, they emphasize space doctrine and acquisition skills. This soft skill mix contrasts unfavorably with the rigorous technical requirements for officers either entering or maintaining certification in the U.S. Navy's submarine corps.24 To remedy these shortcomings, individuals entering space career areas, particularly in military officer or civilian management levels, should be required to have technical degrees. Specific qualification courses and certification should subsequently emphasize technical skills over management-oriented expertise. It is more important that all space professionals be versed in orbital dynamics mathematics than being able to recite the elements of total quality management.
A related problem is that top-quality civilian academic credentials matter. While it is true that people with degrees from a local college sometimes perform as well or better than someone with a degree from a prestigious technical school, this is the exception rather than the rule. Thus, security space organizations should make special efforts to recruit graduates of the highest rated civilian institutions. Moreover, graduate degrees from these institutions should be honored and sought. Finally, courses taught and certified by such institutions are much more likely to be more rigorous than internally organized "Space 101" courses developed and taught by the military Services and commands.
Perhaps most important is for senior civilian leaders and Congress to demand technical backgrounds and extensive space experience for those placed in space command or senior leadership positions. Until recently, most flag-level leaders in Air Force space organizations had little or no actual space background. Often, these leaders were aircraft pilots sent to a space billet for career broadening. Consider that the Air Combat Command has never had nonpilots in its senior positions, while the Air Force Space Command has had few (and at times no) senior leaders with space backgrounds. Congress can ensure this is remedied by insisting that senior officers and other appointed officials are not accepted unless they have demonstrable and extensive space technical credentials and backgrounds.
While it is important to have a new strategic construct such as the one outlined in this chapter (namely, that space capabilities are a primary means of preventing wars versus fighting them), such ideas do little good if the hardware and systems do not support this approach. It is unlikely that traditional acquisition organizations, such as the Air Force Space and Missile Center, will pursue systems to support these new missions. The type of capabilities needed for information and global utilities–oriented collaboration probably will not be acquired by an organization attending to requirements levied by a Service fixated on space only as support to warfighters. However, even these existing organizations recognize that current structures focused on acquisition are not well suited to developing new types of capabilities.25
What is needed are development organizations chartered to identify new possibilities and develop these to the point of capability demonstration. The Department of Defense has such an organization: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has a specific mandate to develop new technological capabilities to meet potential long-range security needs. In 2002, in specific response to the Rumsfeld Commission recommendations, DARPA greatly increased its focus on space capabilities, particularly on fast-paced launch systems in its Falcon program.26 In a similar vein, the short-lived DOD Office of Force Transformation (OFT) pushed the development of responsive, low-cost satellites—those systems capable of being launched during a crisis, not so much to fight a war as to provide a means of preventing a war. For example, a responsive space surveillance system might be launched by the United States or another nation to guarantee an agreement between two potentially hostile neighbors. Just such a move could have helped defuse the crisis between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan in 2002. Each nation accused the other of preparing for an attack. A space-based means of verifying that no such attack was in the works and launched by a neutral third party could have served much the same way as space systems functioned as national technical means of treaty verification during the Cold War. Such systems allowed agreements to be developed and verified as a way to keep the peace, not fight a war.
Unfortunately, neither DARPA nor OFT had a charter or resources to carry the new capabilities beyond technical proof-of-concept. Converting these potential new capabilities into reality requires a development organization specially chartered for this purpose. In addition to lacking such an organization, DARPA also suffered much criticism for trying to develop new information technologies for conducting the global war on terrorism and has largely stopped pursuing such directions.27 This lack can only be remedied with a new organization separate from traditional channels particularly chartered and funded to develop war prevention systems.
A New National Security Organization
While some personnel policies and even a new development organization are possible, none of this will be meaningful without a supportive home for such activities. The Rumsfeld Commission recommendations were quickly undone.28 The commission recommended establishing a single national security space program including intelligence (the National Reconnaissance Office [NRO]) and DOD, mostly Air Force programs. A single leader was appointed to oversee both offices. However, no fundamental changes were made to any roles and missions. Consequently, traditional vested interests, particularly within the Intelligence Community, lobbied successfully to return to having the NRO completely separate from DOD programs. Similarly, within DOD, where the Rumsfeld Commission had advocated moving toward a new "space force," progress has been reversed, with the longstanding U.S. Space Command disestablished and its functions integrated into the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), which was formerly focused solely on nuclear warfighting and strategic deterrence. The U.S. Air Force, once thought to be on the path toward becoming a "space and air" force, is now firmly in the "air" column. To show how far the ball has been dropped, the Air Force is now seeking to transition many formerly space functions into a new category called "near space," whose primary technology would be balloons and airships.29
In order for real progress to be made in either developing true professionals or novel technologies, a completely new organization devoted to a new mission is needed. This organization should have a specific charter to work the use of space, information, and collaborative international efforts as a crisis mitigation, war prevention focus. It is useful to note that USSTRATCOM, which now incorporates most DOD space responsibilities, does include many of the necessary elements, including war prevention deterrence functions, information operations, space activities, command and control, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions. It may be easiest to expand USSTRATCOM's functions to include budget and direct operational control in much the same manner as Special Operations Forces are managed by the U.S. Special Operations Command. In this way, personnel, research, development, and acquisition would be run by leaders with a new focus. If this is done, however, it is essential that senior civilian leadership in DOD also exercise direct oversight.
If this new space and war prevention direction and management approach bears fruit, these moves could expand—unlike the Rumsfeld Commission's approach—to create a new arm of U.S. security assurance including separate budgets, military service, and civilian leadership. But it is essential that basic warfighting responsibilities be removed from the new organization's functions. Otherwise, backsliding into business as usual, as occurred with the good start in 2001 on developing a coherent space approach, will swiftly negate even the best intentions of our leaders.
The United States faces many security challenges. One of the most significant is the growing global use of space capabilities—not just for security but also for a broader range of economic, environmental, and political goals. We are not developing the necessary technological tools— particularly low-cost, smaller, and fast-development-time space systems. We are losing technically competent leadership, resulting in unaffordable systems. And we do not have a compelling rationale for our large space expenditures. These problems can be remedied in two ways.
First, there exists a convincing security case for space systems. Space capabilities form an increasingly vital role as global utilities, which serve as the glue that enables a truly interconnected worldwide economy. By working hard to use new, lower cost space capabilities as a crisis management and war prevention device rather than as an adjunct to warfighting, space systems and the organizations and people who develop and support them can bring a new perspective to the public on space.
Second, armed with a persuasive rationale, we need to focus on a technically competent and intellectually responsive leadership cadre. We need to insist on having our space capabilities in the hands of the best and the brightest people. In addition to getting technically sophisticated staff, we need a DARPA-like development organization to create the affordable space tools to support the new direction. Finally, we need a new strategic organization—possibly growing out of the existing U.S. Strategic Command—to manage all aspects, especially budgeting and technology development. This organization needs to be completely separate from traditional national intelligence and warfighting military functions.
With these political recommendations (which, admittedly, will be difficult to implement), space can realize its full potential as the lynchpin for 21st-century global security.
|Total||Grade||Average acquisition experience
|Average space experience