Military Aerospace Technology Today is: Jun 30, 2007
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Published: Feb 21, 2007

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This article was Originally Published on Oct 20, 2005 in Volume: 4  Issue: 3

Space Warfighter

Interview with General Lance W. Lord

Commander Air Force Space Command Ensuring Space Superiority and Secure Strategic Deterrence

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General Lance W. Lord is commander, Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), Peterson Air Force Base, CO. He is responsible for the development, acquisition and operation of the Air Force’s space and missile systems.

Lord oversees a global network of satellite command and control, communications, missile warning and launch facilities, and ensures the combat readiness of America’s intercontinental ballistic missile force. He leads more than 39,700 space professionals who provide combat forces and capabilities to North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

He entered the Air Force in 1969 as a graduate of the Otterbein College ROTC program. He completed a series of Air Staff and Department of Defense-level assignments in strategic missiles after serving four years of Minuteman II ICBM alert duty. He directed the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile Program Management Office in Europe. He was a military assistant to the director of net assessment with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and represented the Air Force as a research associate in international security affairs at Ohio State University.

Lord commanded two ICBM wings in Wyoming and North Dakota. In California, he commanded a space wing responsible for satellite launch and ballistic missile test launch operations. He served as director of plans and as vice commander for Headquarters Air Force Space Command. He led Air Force education and training as commandant of Squadron Officer School, commander of 2nd Air Force, commander of Air University and director of education for Air Education and Training Command. Prior to assuming his current position, Lord was the assistant vice chief of staff for Headquarters U.S. Air Force.

Lord was interviewed by MAT Editor Harrison Donnelly.

Q. How would you define “space superiority,” and what challenges do you see in maintaining it?

A: Space superiority means ensuring our ability to use space and provide space effects when and where required, while having the ability to deny enemy use of space if they are using it against us. The term space superiority should roll off our tongues just like air superiority.

Our enemies have seen space capabilities make us faster, more precise and more lethal than ever—and they will try to deny us that advantage. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam Hussein tried to take away our precision strike capability by jamming our GPS satellites. Then-Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche stated, “The war in space has begun.” And I’d add: “We didn’t start it.” We must defend our ability to use space. That’s called defensive counterspace.

Our adversaries have witnessed the military advantage we derive from space, and in future conflicts we must expect our adversaries to seek those same benefits for their own operations. We must be prepared to conduct offensive counterspace operations to counter their efforts.

The foundation of space superiority is space situation awareness, which means having a complete understanding of what is happening in space. We must have continuous situation awareness of both environmental effects and the actions of all nations in space to allow us to plan and act—not react.

While the impact on military operations of losing space superiority is clear, I think the impact on our economy and day-to-day life would be equally significant.

Losing space superiority will mean losing American lives. Space superiority is not our birthright, so we’ve got to work to make it our destiny.

The loss of an on-orbit spacecraft would have major impacts on our nation’s economy, which would be more far-reaching than most citizens realize. Can you imagine even a region of our country without the ability to access ATM machines, automatic gas pumps or without the precise position, navigation and timing information the Global Positioning System offers?

It’s important to remember it’s not just the United States that relies on space: it’s the entire world. We get global weather information from satellites and the world’s maritime commerce fleet navigates the seas using GPS. We communicate around the globe using satellite communications. The vast number of financial transactions worldwide depend upon the precise timing provided by satellites, including stock market trades and credit card purchases to name just a few. Take the timing signal from those satellites and money quits moving worldwide. Imagine the macroeconomic impact of losing space capabilities.

Space superiority is critical to our nation’s security and to the world’s security.

Q: How do you respond to concerns that the U.S. pursuit of space superiority will lead to the militarization of space?

A: I’d like to go back to what Secretary Rumsfeld said after announcing the implementation of the space commission, when he stated the United States’ commitment to the peaceful use of space by all nations. I believe we can keep that commitment, honor our treaty obligations and still maintain our space control capabilities and freedom of action in space. The problem is that many of our military’s critics immediately leap from the concept of space superiority to the idea that the United States plans to kinetically attack and indiscriminately destroy satellites.

But that perception is grossly misinformed and ignores the fact that our priorities for space superiority are: 1.) space situation awareness; 2.) defensive counterspace; and, as a last resort, 3.) offensive counterspace, which focuses on temporary, reversible effects … not kinetic kill measures. In summary, we are committed to maintaining free use of space, but we must be prepared to prevent use of space by others if it threatens our national security. The cost of being unprepared is simply too great.

Q: How would you characterize the U.S. military strategy in space, as laid out in the Air Force Transformation Flight Plan and other documents in the past year, and how does the work of the AFSPC fit into that strategy?

A: It is important to examine our space strategy, including the documents you and others in the media have mentioned recently [the Air Force Transformation Flight Plan and the Counterspace Operations doctrine in particular] in the context of overall national security strategy. Space control is one piece of the entire national security effort. As with all national security efforts, it will be conducted within the framework of Deterrence; Warning, and then, if necessary; defending against or countering hostile attack.

AFSPC space strategy is to ensure freedom of action in space for the United States and its allies and, when directed, to deny our adversaries freedom of action in space. AFSPC’s role in this strategy is the acquisition, development, fielding, exercise, operation and support of Air Force space and counterspace capabilities and systems. As such, it is incumbent on AFSPC to explore a wide range of possible capabilities and systems that will enable us to deny our adversaries the advantages gained from space that could be used in a manner hostile to the United States, our citizens, or our national interests.

Q: Are you seeking space supremacy or space dominance, which some warn could be militarily destabilizing?

A: What we are seeking, plain and simple, is freedom of action in space for ourselves and our allies. We want to protect U.S. and friendly space systems and prevent an adversary from using space in such a way that would be hostile to U.S. national security interests. That in no way means we are seeking to deny anyone the peaceful use of space.

Q: In addition to protecting U.S. space assets, what offensive capabilities is the Air Force seeking against the space assets of hostile nations?

A: In September 2004, the Air Force declared operational a new system—the Counter Communication System (CCS)—which is a ground-based, deployable system designed to disrupt satellite-based communications using temporary and reversible methods. CCS is a perfect example of our current focus on ground-based systems that use reversible, nondestructive means to temporarily deny use of space systems that are being used in a hostile manner against us. In fact, DoD space control policy states that the preferred U.S. approach to negating space systems or services hostile to U.S. national security interests is such reversible, nondestructive denial.

Q. There is a substantial amount of work going on in the military space arena. What are your priorities for Air Force Space Command in the coming year?

A: I like to use the phrase, “Mission first, but people always.” Our goals remain unchanged. We have the most advanced weapons systems and technology in the world, but those systems do not develop, maintain or operate themselves. Our people are what truly sets us apart from the rest of the world and make us the greatest air and space power in the world.

We simply could not accomplish our mission without the day-to-day contributions from the nearly 40,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilians in Air Force Space Command, so one of our overarching goals is to take care of our people and ensure their professional development and quality of life.

Our second overarching goal is to achieve mission success in operations and acquisitions. In order for the United States to maintain its position as the greatest air and space power in the world, we must continue to be successful in current operations and we must build our capabilities for the future. To accomplish that, we have set three specific priorities for the coming year:

Our number-one priority is to continue our emphasis on ensuring space superiority and providing desired combat effects for joint warfighting.

Space has always been a key piece of our national security, but only since Operation Desert Storm have we seen space impact the battlefield at the operational and tactical levels. Today, space effects are a critical piece of military operations, so we must ensure we can provide space effects on the battlefield when and where required.

Our second priority is to maintain a safe and secure strategic deterrent capability and provide means for prompt global strike.

In the last few years, much of our military effort has concentrated on regional conflicts, such as the Balkans, and the global war on terror. While those types of operations have garnered the headlines and much of our effort, it’s important to remember the strategic threat to the United States has not gone away. It’s critical that we maintain a viable strategic deterrence force and we must ensure we don’t get so focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror that we lose sight of strategic deterrence.

Priority number three is continuing efforts to develop cost-effective assured access to space.

As the importance of space continues to grow, we must improve our ability to put satellites into space. We must develop launch methods that are cheaper, more reliable and quicker. Just as the battlefield becomes more dynamic, space must follow. Initiatives such as Joint Warfighting Space would provide dedicated, responsive space assets to regional combatant commanders, but in order to do that we must be able to reach space quickly, affordably and reliably. We should strive to make space launches no more remarkable than an airplane taking off from a runway.

Q: In what ways are space-based assets critical to winning the war against terrorism?

A: In fighting our nation’s global war on terrorism, space has allowed us to trade the military principle of mass for speed and accuracy. The capabilities and effects we provide from and through space are an enormous advantage to our American and coalition forces. We are able to find targets more quickly and use precision attack to maximize our combat effects on the battlefield, which shortens the “kill chain,” while at the same time reducing collateral damage to civilian lives and property.

When you integrate space into our military operations on the ground, in the air or on the sea, you significantly increase combat effectiveness while decreasing the number of American and coalition troops you put in harm’s way.

Thanks to space, our forces are able to move faster and fight smarter and more precisely. Those are keys to success in any war, but particularly in the type of unconventional counterinsurgency operations we’re conducting in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world in the global war on terrorism.

Q: What is the AFSPC doing to modernize and strengthen the nation’s strategic deterrence capability?

A: As Chief of Staff of the Air Force General John P. Jumper likes to say, “Our ICBMs provide the ‘top cover’ for our forces deployed worldwide.” Our ICBMs are just as important today as they were at the height of the Cold War. The face of the enemy has changed, but the threat remains.

The Minuteman III is the most reliable and affordable component of the strategic triad, but it is aging. We are currently replacing both the missile guidance set and the propulsion systems in our Minuteman III forces. We’re counting on these modernizations to carry us to about 2020. We are also starting a formal analysis this year to look into the follow-on capabilities needed for land-based strategic deterrence beyond 2020 as well.

Q: What is the current status of the Land Based Strategic Deterrence Analysis of Alternatives, and what do you see as the major steps this year?

A: The Land Based Strategic Defense (LBSD) Analysis of Alternatives study is on track to publish a final report at the end of fiscal 2005. The study is currently being worked with AFSPC to ensure we completely scrub the issue and come up with the best options.

As our Minuteman III fleet ages, it’s critical to identify some type of long-term replacement or modernization program to ensure the United States maintains a viable strategic deterrent force well into the future. Our ICBM force has been, and remains, the stalwart of our strategic deterrence force.

We’re in the process of deactivating our 50 Peacekeeper missiles at F.E. Warren AFB, but we should not mistake that drawdown for meaning ICBMs are no longer important; nothing could be further from the truth. We believe our Minuteman III force is sufficient to provide credible strategic deterrence, but the deactivation of Peacekeeper only increases the importance of Minuteman and, in the future, LBSD.

Q: What is the relationship between your command and USSTRATCOM, and do you foresee any organizational changes that could improve effectiveness in this vital area?

A: The chief of staff of the Air Force recently directed AFSPC to assume the role as the single Air Force service component to USSTRATCOM. The role of the service component is to provide forces to the combatant commander, or a designated subordinate component commander, to use in executing the mission.

Historically, there have been two AF service components to USSTRATCOM: AFSPC, which provides ICBMs and satellites, and Air Combat Command (ACC), which provides bombers, ISR and information operations assets. In order to streamline presentation of forces to USSTRATCOM, we’re working to identify an entity to serve as the single Air Force component to USSTRATCOM. We’re working with ACC and USSTRATCOM to decide who will serve as the service component commander and then to iron out responsibilities and determine how the relationship will work between the two MAJCOMs.

In addition to the service component, AFSPC is working with USSTRATCOM and ACC to establish a functional joint space and global strike component to USSTRATCOM. USSTRATCOM is moving to a functional component construct in which the commander of USSTRATCOM will assign warfighting responsibilities to functional component commanders, who will be responsible for a particular mission area, similar to the way regional combatant commanders divide responsibilities among land, maritime, air and special operations component commanders. We are also working to develop a joint functional component construct that would establish a joint space and global strike component commander, with an attendant Air Operations Center and staff.

We’ve been given the lead on both pieces of the componency, but ACC and its subordinate units also play a critical role in developing the new construct.

The third role of AFSPC is as a major command in the Air Force. In that capacity, we are responsible for organizing, training and equipping the Air Force space forces. Responsibilities in that area include administrative control, programming for and acquiring systems and ensuring forces are properly trained to perform their mission.

Q: How do you see the concept of “componency” contributing to improved Air Force space operations?

A: Space systems are global in nature, and most can have a worldwide effect. Creating a single Air Force service component to USSTRATCOM will streamline presentation of Air Force forces to USSTRATCOM, giving the commander of USSTRATCOM a single point of contact to handle operational control issues.

Creating a single, joint functional space component with global responsibility will allow us to balance requests for support from theaters around the world and ensure we are maximizing the use of limited assets to support all operations.

Componency will help centralize the many disparate space elements and efforts within the department of defense. Establishing a single space component will ensure we have a senior general officer focusing on space planning, employment and integration, without being forced to divide his attention to other issues. Additionally, space and global strike responsibilities will be very tightly coupled, which will ensure complete integration between the global strike and space mission areas, which are naturally complementary.

Q: How should space capabilities be integrated into the planning and execution of future military operations?

A: In the past, we have done a fair job of integrating space into operations, but it was mostly an afterthought. We planned the majority of the operation and then looked to see where space fit in. That method of planning does not allow us to take full advantage of the benefits space effects provide. Space has become a keystone in every military operation. The complex nature of space demands that we devote adequate time and resources to ensuring we have fully thought out space employment in military operations, and that requires prior planning. In the past, most space planning was done in the crisis planning and execution phases of operations. We’ve got to do better than that; we must fully integrate space during the deliberate planning process.

As the joint functional space component stands up, it will assume much of that planning responsibility for global space assets, but the regional combatant commanders must also conduct significant deliberate planning for space to ensure they are maximizing the utility of the effects we can provide them. We’ve got space experts assigned to every combatant command, and air component responsibility for ensuring space is included in planning, but it’s an enormous task, so it really requires a team effort between those who are assigned to the combatant commands and personnel assigned to AFSPC and USSTRATCOM.

Q: What have been the key achievements so far in implementing the space professional strategy, and what are the most significant challenges you have faced in doing so?

A: We’ve had a number of achievements that we are particularly proud of in the space professional development arena.

As I stated earlier, the most valuable asset we have in the Air Force is our people, so it’s important to ensure we are providing them with the proper training and we are assigning them to jobs that will make the most of their unique experience. To that end, we’ve developed a tracking system to identify our space professionals and track their education and experience. That system will help us ensure we’re giving our people the right training to help them grow and that we’re making the most of our most valuable resource.

To provide the required training and broadening, last year we stood up the National Security Space Institute (NSSI) and signed a memorandum of understanding with a consortium of civilian colleges and universities to develop an advanced, specialized space program to further the expertise of our space professionals. Additionally, we have moved out aggressively on many of the space courses the NSSI offers, including the “Space in the AOC” course, which prepares space operators to deploy to Air Operations Centers, and the “Space 200” course, which provides mid-level space professional development to our space personnel. Our staff at the NSSI is working hard to develop a “Space 300” course to provide advanced space professional development, and we hope to have the prototype for that course ready by October of this year.

We’re particularly proud of the fact that while AFSPC runs NSSI, our student base consists of students from all four military services and NASA. In fact, when I spoke to the most recent “Space in the AOC” course, we had a major from the Marine Corps as a student and he felt as though the course had made him a much more effective warfighter because of the knowledge he gained on space capabilities.

“This course has taken me from zero to dangerous [to our enemies],” he said. We dedicate a significant number of student slots to the other military services, as well as NASA. Our partnership is particularly strong with the Army, which has made an NSSI course part of the formal training for some of their space personnel and we recently added two Army instructors to our staff at NSSI. As we continue to integrate space across all mediums of operations, the importance of creating space experts in all services will only grow. We expect to broaden the student base to include other government agencies that require space education.

Another professional development initiative we’re extremely proud of is the new space badge, which we announced back in October. Our space professionals are a unique blend of operators, engineers, scientists and acquisition professionals, with each playing a critical role in our space mission. We all play a key role in space operations and space superiority, but we all wear different badges. By instituting a new, common space badge to be earned by all space professionals, we unite what was previously a fragmented community. Some of the specifics of our jobs are different, but when you really get down to it, our jobs are fundamentally the same, so we should all wear the same badge.

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