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Space and Information Superiority

Space and Information Superiority

Remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association Space Symposium, Fairfax, Va., Feb. 26, 2003, by Peter Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force.

When I spoke to all of you in this forum last year, I had been on the job just a few weeks, and all of us -- military, civilian, and industry -- were still coming to grips with Space Commission implementation, not to mention the national security issues in the wake of September 2001. Fortunately, we had a pretty clear National Security Space roadmap laid out for us by the Space Commission, as well as the NRO Commission and the Kerr Remote Sensing Panel. We've made some significant progress in the last year implementing recommendations by these groups and improving the way we conduct National Security Space activities, but our work is far from done.

I want to devote the first part of my remarks today to the priorities I've set for National Security Space for 2003. I've had the opportunity to share these priorities over the last month with our government folks in the Pentagon, at the NRO, in Colorado Springs, and in Los Angeles. But I want to take this opportunity to share them with you, our partners in industry, because, to successfully carry out these priorities, we're absolutely going to need your help.

They are:

  • Ensure mission success in space operations
  • Fully integrate space capabilities for warfighting and national intelligence
  • Get space acquisition programs on track
  • Pursue operationally responsive assured access to space
  • Develop a team of Space Professionals
  • Pursue innovative capabilities for national intelligence and defense priorities
  • Enhance space control capabilities
  • Focus space science and technology resources and programs

These priorities point us in the direction we need to go in 2003.

I'd like to now spend just a few moments reaching out beyond 2003, and describe to you what I see will be the key influences shaping our actions in the defense and intelligence communities in the years ahead.

Those peering into the crystal ball keep coming up with the same general conclusion on what the United States needs to maintain its advantages against the full spectrum of threats. Some call it information superiority. Others, like Admiral Cebrowski, call it network-centric warfare. Essentially, it's the need for information, for knowledge -- how we collect it, how we process it, how we share it, and how we use it to make decisions or produce combat effects.

In our society at large today, information is, essentially, the chief commodity in economic arenas. And it is increasingly the decisive weapon in military and national security matters. Information -- access to it and how fast it is delivered -- now is a central determinant of combat power. And information superiority is a key enabler for essentially all of our new technology. We simply wouldn't build a system that doesn't leverage our information-sharing capabilities, any more than someone would build a computer today without the capability to access a network or the internet.

Information superiority today means a number of things:

It is reliable ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) -- you can't attack targets if you can't find them.

It is fast and effective C2 (command and control) -- you can't attack emerging targets rapidly if your command systems are slow.

It is integration -- you can't get synergy if you can't share information.

And it is precision -- you can't conduct effective attacks if you don't have high confidence target identification.

Our challenge is to maintain information superiority, which, by itself, is probably our nation's greatest asymmetric advantage in warfighting. Our platforms and systems, by themselves, aren't what make us so effective in combat. It's how we link them together -- sensors, shooters, precision targeting, combat assessment -- that produces effective results.

Many of you, I'm sure, are familiar with "Moore's Law." Gordon Moore, the co-founder and former chairman of Intel Corporation, first observed back in 1965 that the complexity of semiconductor components had doubled each year since the first prototype microchip was produced in 1959. In the 1980s, Moore's Law evolved -- with Moore's approval -- to mean the doubling of the number of transistors on a computer chip every 18 months. In the 1990s, Moore's Law became widely associated with the claim that computing power at fixed cost is doubling every 18 months. The exponential effects of Moore's Law are staggering: an order of magnitude increase in capability every five years.

Now, Moore's Law has mainly been used to highlight the rapid change in commercial information processing technologies. But we see something similar happening with regard to bandwidth demands in the military and intelligence arenas. Our director of DISA, the Defense Information Systems Agency, Lieutenant General Harry Raduege has noted:

In Operation Desert Storm, the total data rate required was 100 Mbps for 500,000 troops.

In Operation Allied Force, the SATCOM bandwidth rose to 250 Mbps, for far fewer troops.

And in Operation Enduring Freedom, a total data rate of 700 Mbps supported a force of only 50,000 troops -- one-tenth the number of people engaged in Desert Storm.

If we are called to action in the Middle East in the next few weeks, with the large numbers of troops likely to be engaged and operations likely to be executed, I'm certain the bandwidth requirements will be off all previous charts. We're seeing a variation on Moore's law in action, and the forecast only calls for more, more, more.

Now, the commercial sector can take some comfort from the fact that fiber-optic technology is able to absorb most of the impact of accelerating information throughput requirements. But the U.S. military doesn't have that luxury. By their very nature, our armed forces operate in exactly those places where fiber-optic cable networks are not: not only in remote locations on land, but also on the seas, in the skies and in space. And it is in those places that our requirements are growing by leaps and bounds.

Unmanned aerial vehicles alone are capable of saturating our current bandwidth availability. Just one Global Hawk with a full payload of sensors will have a future bandwidth requirement in excess of one gigabit per second. But in future operations, just one Global Hawk won't be nearly enough. In fact, the Office of the Secretary of Defense's "UAV Roadmap" identified 57 future requirements associated with 15 related mission areas for UAVs.

Of course, UAVs won't be the only systems vying for bandwidth. Once you add in spaceborne ISR systems, special operations relays, joint operations center integration, video-conferencing, Internet connectivity, logistics networks, and even Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities, the needs stack up very quickly.

With these kinds of tremendous foreseen requirements, if the bandwidth is not there to meet them, future commanders in the field will have to make bandwidth resource allocation choices. They'll have to trade-off various systems and activities. Imagine an instance where a UAV loitering over one part of a battlefield has to cease transmitting ISR data, so another unmanned vehicle can have the bandwidth needed to drop weapons. Or imagine Battle Damage Assessment imagery from a spaceborne imager having to wait for a four-star video teleconference to finish before it can be disseminated within theater.

We cannot allow this to happen.

In the battlespaces of tomorrow, victory may be won or lost in mere seconds -- the seconds it takes to identify and strike a moving target, or the seconds it takes to make a critical decision. We cannot let bandwidth constraints be the Achilles heel of our armed forces in the decades to come. That's why our efforts to transform communications are so critical.

Rear Admiral Rand Fisher, director of our Transformational Communications Office, is leading the charge to develop the architecture we'll need to meet these huge, onrushing bandwidth requirements. As Admiral Fisher likes to make clear, our efforts are not about satellites, and they're not about terminals -- they're about creating a whole new infrastructure to support future warfighting. The bandwidth equivalent of Moore's Law has given us a glimpse into a crystal ball, and what we see is: no end to bandwidth requirements in sight. Success in future warfighting will involve swarms of UAVs in simultaneous flight, operators at all levels integrated and sharing information, machines interfacing directly with other machines. The result is a thousand cursors on a thousand targets with decision-making reduced to mere seconds, or fractions of seconds, producing campaigns with outcomes that may be determined before the first steel hits its target.

To get there from here will take transforming communications. It will also take success in all the other National Security Space priorities I've mentioned today -- achieving mission success, integrating space, improving acquisition, pursuing assured access, and so on. These are all ways and means to achieve success in our quest for effective warfighting operations and national security.

The importance of our nation's space capabilities continues to increase, and at a pace commensurate with our increasing warfighting emphasis on network-centric operations. Our warfighters in the field depend on us to provide the space capabilities they need to achieve victory. Our nation's citizens depend on us to provide the space capabilities needed to protect our nation's security.

Thank you for inviting me back to speak this year. I'm looking forward to another exciting and productive year working with all of you to advance our nation's National Security Space capabilities! I'd like to now take the opportunity

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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).