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National Security: The Space Dimension

National Security: The Space Dimension

Remarks Delivered November 14, 1997 in Los Angeles by General Michael E. Ryan, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff: "National Security: The Space Dimension: On Becoming a Space and Air Force".

Thank you. It's a pleasure for me to be with you today.

The Air Force Association and its partnership with industry and support of the Air Force are prime reasons why we were able to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the greatest Air Force in the world this year.

I feel fortunate and humble to have the opportunity to lead our Air Force into the 21st century.

While I've been in the job a short time, I know that none of us can rest because, what peace we enjoy is so fragile. Witness Iraq today. The world we live in is so dynamic that we must pilot our own destiny and that is toward a Space and Air Force.

Today, our capabilities in air and space are vast, it is amazing to think that man's journey into powered flight began less than a century ago, and man's journey into space only 40 years ago. These feats were driven by the engine of human knowledge.

I've heard it said that human knowledge is now doubling every 10-15 years. That means we have gained as much new understanding about our physical world in the past 15 years as all of the inventors and scientists did in the previous five hundred thousand years. And we will double what we now know in the next 10-15 years.

Our computing capability is increasing so dramatically that even by the turn of the century, we may have computers performing a trillion calculations per second. They're replacing my office computer faster than I can read the operating instructions.

Given the pace, it's hard to precisely predict what technological developments we will see in the first quarter of the next millennium and the impact they will have on military operations. Particularly, those developments towards the "final frontier" -- space. A frontier that man has been gazing toward in wonderment since the beginning of time.

It has been 500 years since Copernicus said the earth was a satellite of the sun, but just in the time most of us have been adults, man has gone into space, literally and figuratively, and become dependent on it.

I'm talking about the space systems we use on a regular basis. Systems that facilitate television broadcasts, weather forecasts, education, and even support navigation systems in our cars.

The United States alone has over 220 active commercial, civil, and military satellites in orbit, valued in excess of $100 billion. As far as the Department of Defense, we will spend over $35 million today on space programs alone, or about ¾ of a million dollars while I'm speaking to you.

Later this morning, General Estes, our Commander in Chief for Space, will update you on the progress of some of those Air Force programs.

Howell and I go back a long way. We were born about the same time at the same hospital, went to the same prep school together, and were in the same class at the Academy.

We were never accused of being "Rocket Scientists" but we did both graduate in the top 100 percent of our class. And we both have a deep appreciation of the profound importance of space to our Armed Forces and for national security. Later today he will talk to you about systems. I'll concentrate on concepts.

Five years ago, we fought what has been called the first "space aided war" with Desert Storm. Our space-based capabilities were instrumental in the execution of the campaign that dismantled Iraq's military capability.

Since then we have seen more success in integrating space into our operations in the Bosnian air campaign. I can tell you from first hand experience that space systems were vital. They allowed us to precisely target while avoiding collateral damage, and contributed to bringing peace to that ravaged land.

The Air Force has always responded responsibly to its role as the steward of space and will continue to take the lead in organizing, training and equipping our space forces. Of the services, we have the most expertise, and we have made the most investment.

The Air Force now provides over 90% of the military space budget and 93% of space personnel.

Since 1991, the Air Force satellite force structure has increased substantially in numbers and capability. And recently, we have been launching satellites into orbit at a record pace.

In keeping with this migration to space, the Air Force made a major commitment to the role of space in our future when we released Global Engagement, A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force. In that document we discuss a transition of enormous importance, underscoring the Air Force's commitment to fully integrate space capabilities into our mission framework.

Our goal is to eventually evolve from an Air and Space Force, which we call ourselves now, into a Space and Air Force.

But Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience; "How many legs will a sheep have if you call the tail a leg?" "Five," was the reply. "You are mistaken," said Lincoln, "for calling a tail a leg don't make it so."

Likewise, calling ourselves an Air and Space force doesn't make us one. And the first step in becoming a Space and Air Force is being a real Air and Space Force.

But what does this transition mean? How close are we? And what do we have to do to get there?

In attempting to answer that question I suggest three central propositions. First, Air and Space are a continuum -- forever. Second, whatever goes up, must come down -- for now. And third, a lot of What's down, must go up -- eventually.

The first proposition requires a clear realization that there is no delineation, break, or boundary in the third dimension. There is Space in Air and Air in Space; it's just that the molecules further out are a long way apart.

We must move beyond stovepipes of separate space and air capabilities and operations to ones which are fully integrated and interwoven. We can have no Fire Support Coordination Line in the vertical dimension.

Nothing short of a fundamental cultural change is needed across a wide spectrum of the Air Force. Not only are we an air and space force but we are an air and space EXPEDITIONARY force.

This is a formidable task for the Air Force and we are moving there with our doctrine, how we think of ourselves, and how we deploy and employ.

We just published our Air Force Doctrine Document 1 -- Our basic primer on Air and Space forces. It will be followed shortly by AFDD-2 which outlines how we organize and employ Air and Space Power.

These are not "pie in the sky" documents. They are both a documentation of what we are doing right now, and enduring concepts for the future. For instance, if you walked into our deployable Air Operations Center, in say Ramstein Germany, you would find Air Force people with space expertise working in the strategy cell, the plans cell, and on the Ops floor. And Howell Estes is structuring one of his Numbered Air Forces as the reach back capability for our deployed Air and Space Expeditionary Force Commander. Our Air and Space Expeditionary Force Commanders will provide our regional CINCs one stop shopping for Air and Space power -- whether it's tomorrow for Baghdad or a million tomorrows in the Beta Quadrant.

The second proposition is that whatever goes up, must come down, for now. Space may be the "final frontier," but not unto itself. The true "final frontier" is in the minds and the will of people.

Space systems must have an effect on our earth, for that is where we live, for now. Our space capabilities may have initially been intended to warn us or assist in deterring nuclear war, but they are evolving into critical support elements for all levels of conflict.

Space provides us the ability for seamless vertical dominance. We can look down with an air and space perspective that no other service can provide.

The air and space realm touches 100 percent of the world's surface, and it provides us a unique capability for access. That access can provide the awareness that reduces the friction of war, increases our ability to be decisive, and saves precious lives.

We need to explore the opportunities that space provides to conduct our warfighting missions from greater distances with more speed and survivability. Those opportunities in the shorter term must leverage our core competencies: Air and Space Superiority... Global Attack... Precision Engagement... Rapid Global Mobility... Information Superiority... and Agile Combat Support.

We face many inefficiencies on the ground. Moving more of our missions to space may allow us to do them better. So what is down, must go up eventually.

Information superiority, for example, is currently attained through a mixture of surface, air, and space-based systems from the military, civil, and commercial communities.

In the future, we will achieve far better global situational awareness as space capabilities become the primary means of information acquisition, processing, and distribution.

The information conduits in space are opening to the point that our challenge is not throughput but information management so we are not swamped by quantity and miss warnings or opportunities. We need factual information to shape and control contingencies as they develop.

When contingencies do develop, getting the right resources to the right place at the right time has always been a major challenge. As an expeditionary air and space force, we need to be light, lean, and lethal.

Space systems make this effort easier through satellite link-ups and positioning and tracking information which dramatically increase our efficiency and effectiveness.

Rapid Global Mobility and Agile Combat Support will improve as we increase our operational capability while reducing both our mobility footprint and our costs.

Our other core competencies will be aided by space as well. Such as global attack. Even today our bomber and fighter forces are dependent on space systems to rapidly update, re-target, and guide weapons to critical objectives with the desired effects; that's precision engagement.

Finally, to ensure the ability to perform all of these missions, we have changed the traditional mission of air superiority to air and space superiority. This will be very important as more of our military infrastructure moves from earth to space, as well as that of commercial enterprise.

Our dependency on space is growing, as well as the potential for threats to those capabilities. Many nations can now have access to sophisticated space remote sensing, communications, and navigation capabilities. Nations who observed the vital role space played in our successful operations will be motivated to find ways to deny the US unimpeded access to space.

Part of the vision for the future is that air and space assets must work together to provide superiority in both air and space.

Such seamless integration as this cuts across the Air Force: planning and programming, systems interoperability, organization, and training.

If we do it right, the capabilities presented by seamless Air and Space power are the nation's best hope for rapidly halting aggression as outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review.

The QDR also forced us to make some hard decisions to pay for modernization. We will continue to have to make hard decisions as we migrate more to space and divest ourselves of systems that marginally contribute. We must be smart about those trades, and be bold enough to make those moves when the time is right.

This is all part of the evolutionary process. The 'seamless' doctrine I spoke of earlier will imply, I believe, that space assets will conduct what we think of now as air missions, and perhaps air assets will perform what we think of now as space missions.

There undoubtedly will be more platforms that operate both in the air and in space, an Air and Space ship, a starship, an Enterprise. If we are going to get there, the Air Force must remain on the cutting edge of science and technology.

Due to the financial constraints and market forces, we may become as much of a technology customer as a developer. Relying on the innovative minds of the commercial sector and other agencies for many of our new developments for military use.

We need a partnership with industry more than ever, and we are trying to do our part to foster that partnership. We believe our access to space goes hand-in- hand with commercial access to space.

Our need for technological development , combined with making the hard choices, and changing our culture, will hopefully keep us from realizing Lincoln's concern of "calling a tail a leg."

We are evolving into more of an integrated Air and Space force every day. But the true revolution to create a Space and Air force is still sometime away.

That will take not only vision, but commitment. But when we do achieve the move to that frontier, it will not be Captain Jean Luc Picard in command, it will be Colonel Jean Luc Picard. And he will be a card carrying member of this Association.

Thank You again for allowing me to participate this morning and for your continued support of our Air Force and our people


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).