Developing space professionals

Filed under: Opinion |

We need space professionals in all services and agencies&to exploit space effectively in the interests of national security. Development of a space cadre is one of our top agenda items for national security space programs.

- Peter B. Teets,

Under Secretary of the Air Force

This year, 2004, marks a milestone for the space and missile community-it’s the 50th anniversary of the Air Force’s Western Development Division. From the early days, General Bernard Schriever and his team of scientists, engineers, contractors, government officials and Airmen developed missile and satellite systems that led the nation into outer space, made possible arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and ultimately helped win the Cold War. Their innovation and prescient leadership enabled the transformational military space and missile capabilities the Air Force operates today. Although it’s important to reflect back on the contributions and lessons-learned from our space and missile heritage, it’s even more essential that we cast our eyes and thoughts forward to the future. In that light, we recently unveiled a new Space Professional Cadre development program, which will benefit operators, maintainers and acquirers in all ranks – Officer, Enlisted and Civilian. Without question, our most vital resource is people and that’s why we are working hard to create a strong program that will professionally develop our next generation of Space Professionals. The centerpiece of the Air Force’s comprehensive strategy will include a prestigious National Space University constructed right here in Colorado Springs.

The Air Force Space Professional Strategy was derived in part from the 2001 Space Commission Report, which stated the Department of Defense in not on course to develop the space cadre the nation needs. The Commission further asserted that space operators and acquirers must “master highly complex technology&and operate some of the most complex systems ever built and deployed.” Their declarations are holding true. The acquisition pipeline is filling up with increasingly complex space systems, such as the Space Based Radar, which will provide unprecedented capabilities for our nation’s military. These systems will blend space with air, land and sea battle arenas more than ever before. A highly skilled Air Force Space Cadre will be absolutely critical if we expect to successfully design, operate and integrate these new capabilities into the high-tech battlefields of the future.

Implementation of the Space Professional Strategy will lead to more purposeful and effective career development for the entire space community. This includes the Space Cadre (scientists, engineers, program managers and operators who design, acquire, employ and integrate our space capabilities) and Space Support personnel who serve in critical and diverse roles, such as intelligence, maintenance, communication, weather, contracting, finance and possibly others. The plan calls for identifying every individual in the Air Force’s Space Cadre, tracking their unique “space experiences,” developing new and improved space education and training courses, and instituting a robust certification program to guide and monitor the education, training and experience of all Cadre members. In addition, Space Support personnel will receive specialized education in space missions and organizations to better prepare them for their unique and exciting tour in Air Force Space Command.

Mission success will undoubtedly hinge on providing the strongest foundation of education and training possible. To that end, we already have transformational education initiatives in progress that are designed to enhance understanding of the space medium and the importance of integrating space capabilities into joint warfighting. But we need to do more, especially with the civilian sector. My vision is for the creation of a “National Space University” centered here in Colorado Springs and enabled by a collaborative effort between services, agencies, and local and distant universities. I want this National Space University to be the “go to” place for space education. Although there will be many hurdles ahead, together we can make this vision a reality.

How do we know we’re on the right path? With tighter budgets and a smaller fighting force, greater attention is required to sustain the right number of people, with the correct education and training, to fill the necessary jobs, at the proper time in their careers. The Space Professional Implementation Plan gives the Air Force a solid roadmap for achieving this mandate and is flexible enough to accommodate changes along the way. While Air Force Space Command is already making big strides, a number of challenges still remain. Cultural shifts and change are sometimes met with apprehension and skepticism; however, these initiatives are needed to face the asymmetric challenges of the 21st century. The growing complexity and types of combat missions demand that space operators get out in front of the problem intellectually. To maintain our nation’s continued preeminence in the space arena, the Air Force must produce a highly dedicated Space Cadre to execute planning, programming, requirements development, acquisition and operation of future military space systems. This new professional development program offers the right approach, it enjoys the full support of Air Force senior leadership and we pledge to commit all of the necessary resources to accomplish our goals.

Since the Space Commission first published their dramatic findings and recommendations in January 2001, we have been diligently working to identify and implement sound solutions. Space Professional Development is designed to promote career growth opportunities while thoroughly preparing our people to overcome the difficult challenges associated with securing the ultimate high ground. Merging our existing space specialists into a world-class team of scientists, engineers, program managers, operators and support personnel who are skilled and knowledgeable in the development, acquisition, operation, sustainment and integration of space capabilities, will sustain the overwhelming air and space power the United States has come to depend on. A National Space University centered in Colorado Springs will pave the way for continued growth, while keeping this extraordinary city as the “Place for Space.” The mutual benefits to our Space Cadre and the Colorado Springs community will be enduring, as we become the recognized leader in Advanced Space Education and Training.

For additional Space Professional information visit the Space Professional Development Web Site at: http://www.peterson.af.mil/spacepro.

Gen. Lance Lord is Commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB, CO.