Military Aerospace Technology Today is: Oct 22, 2006
Volume: 5  Issue: 2
Published: Oct 08, 2006


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This article was Originally Published on Feb 02, 2003 in Volume: 2  Issue: 1

Space Warfighter

Interview with General Lance W. Lord

Commander, Air Force Space Command

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General Lance W. Lord is Commander, Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, CO. He is responsible for the development, acquisition and operation of the Air Force’s space and missile systems. He 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. Lord leads more than 39,700 space professionals who provide combat forces and capabilities to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Strategic Command.

Lord 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. The general 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. The general 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, General Lord was the assistant vice chief of staff for headquarters U.S. Air Force.

Q: Could you describe the challenges and duties you face as commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)?

A: I like to describe what we do at AFSPC in terms of inputs and outputs. On the “input” side, we organize, train and equip Air Force space and missile forces. While all Air Force major commands have the “organize, train and equip” mission, AFSPC is unique. We have our own acquisition arm—the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) in Los Angeles—that acquires our Air Force space programs.

SMC, commanded by Lieutenant General Brian Arnold, is responsible for managing the research, design, development and acquisition of space launch, command and control, and satellite systems. With more than 3,200 employees nationwide and an annual total obligation authority in excess of $5 billion, SMC is the nation’s center of excellence for military space acquisition and is responsible for development of major Air Force programs such as NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS), Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), Military Strategic and Tactical Relay (MILSTAR) and Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF). Additionally, they have Air Force responsibility for new ventures such as transformational communications and the Space-Based Radar (SBR). It’s my role to make sure our system program directors—those tasked with managing the development of our space programs—are confident they have the full weight of the major command (MAJCOM) behind them. In matters of acquisition, Lieutenant General Arnold and his team speak with the full authority of AFSPC.

The Command is moving out on a number of programs and capabilities that will be available in the near- and mid-term. We’ll be bringing on line enhancements to the GPS with the new IIF model satellites, launching both Advanced EHF and Wideband communication satellites and deploying a new generation of missile warning satellites. In addition, we’ll continue to modernize our intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force.

Our role as an Air Force service component to United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is the “output” side of our business. Though our missions remain the same, with the merger of U.S. Space Command and USSTRATCOM into a “new USSTRATCOM” on October 1, 2002, we now offer our missile and space forces and their capabilities through a single combatant commander. We are improving on and refining the process we use to present our space and intercontinental ballistic missile forces, ensuring Admiral James Ellis and all the combatant commanders have the capabilities they need, when they need them. This is especially important as we continue to prosecute the global war on terrorism.

One set of capabilities that we offer, and that we must not overlook, are provided by the Minuteman and Peacekeeper weapon systems. For more than four decades, the men and women of AFSPC’s 20th Air Force have operated, maintained and secured our nation’s land-based strategic nuclear deterrent force. Though the Cold War is over and the threat has changed, the deterrent and prompt global strike capabilities our ICBMs provide are still very important.

As the first dedicated four-star commander of AFSPC, I’ve got an advantage over my predecessors. Although they were all superb commanders, they had three commands to lead—I’ve got one. I can focus all of my attention on AFSPC—24/7/365. After all, our president and secretary of defense have emphasized the importance of space and that translates into missions for our Air Force. Secretary Dr. James Roche, General John P. Jumper and Undersecretary Peter Teets have fully embraced those missions and it’s up to us in AFSPC to get the job done. We’re honored to accept those missions and it’s my personal challenge to make the most of the opportunity.

Q: Given those challenges, what are your priorities for the next year?

A: Since I took command on April 19, 2002, I’ve tried to develop an operational framework within the command based on three priorities, and those same priorities are going to be the foundation for what we do in 2003 as well. I’ve already introduced the first two priorities during our discussion of challenges. The first priority is our role as a major command—organizing, training and equipping our space and missile forces and capabilities, and the second is our role as a component to U.S. Strategic Command—remember, “inputs” and “outputs.” Our third priority is to help ensure that the Air Force’s role as Department of Defense (DoD) Executive Agent for Space is a resounding success. To do that, we’ve got to ensure that our Undersecretary [of the Air Force] Peter Teets, is successful too. He has four priorities for National Security Space, and since it’s always a good idea to “work your boss’s agenda,” those priorities are also ours!

We’re going to continue to work on improving our access to space—that’s an absolute necessity. We’ve taken two big steps on that path this year with successful commercial launches of the Atlas V and Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicles. The EELV program, however, isn’t the end of that road. We’re already looking at alternatives for the future of operationally responsive spacelift—something that will guarantee robust and responsive spacelift to support both routine and time-sensitive military operations.

Mr. Teets is also focusing on “best practices”—the integration of black and white space—and making sure our space acquisition programs get back on track. In each of those areas, AFSPC has made significant improvements. We’re working with our counterparts in the National Reconnaissance Office—learning from each other’s processes and identifying the best of each. We’ve also seen the recertification of the SBIRS High acquisition program and, with Lieutenant General Arnold and his folks at SMC, we’re making sure we keep those lessons-learned in mind as we approach new programs like Space Based Radar. To ensure these important programs stay “on track,” SMC conducts in-depth quarterly program reviews together with HQ AFSPC leaders to ensure timely communication and effective program oversight.

Finally, we’re working hard on a strategy for the development of our space professionals.

Q: How has military space proved itself in the war against terrorism?

A: I had the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday week in Southwest Asia and saw the impact space forces and capabilities are having on current operations first hand. While I could talk for hours on this topic, I think General Tommy Franks, Commander of U.S. Central Command, really answered your question when he testified to Congress that “the pieces of [Operation Enduring Freedom] which have been successful would not have been so without space-based assets. It’s just very simply a fact.”

Our satellite communication systems are providing an unprecedented capability to command and control Global Hawk and Predator from thousands of miles away. They allow coordination of multi-service and multi-agency operations at extended ranges, and they are providing near real-time information on new targets to inbound strike aircraft. Additionally, the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan drove the reliance on our satellite communications (SATCOM) capabilities even higher.

Additionally, enhancements to GPS have improved targeting and reduced the potential for collateral damage. Space capabilities are also a key part in the tracking of friendly forces.

While the majority of our AFSPC team focuses on our in-place ICBM and space missions—missions critical to our nation’s defense and the success of our deployed forces—a growing number of our own folks are part of expeditionary operations. In fact, there are over 700 men and women from Air Force Space Command deployed today as essential elements of our Air Expeditionary Forces. In that respect, we have two critical missions and we’re working hard on both.

Q: GPS is a system that is unique in that it is used extensively by the civilian sector as well as by military forces. What’s the plan for keeping this system healthy in the future?

A: Our GPS efforts emphasize not only keeping this critical warfighting asset healthy but also on improving the system’s future performance and capabilities—both for the military and civil users. In this regard, it’s important that people understand that GPS will remain a free service for all users.

GPS already provides levels of position, navigation and timing accuracy that exceed what was originally anticipated. Our AFSPC operators do a superb job keeping each satellite and the overall constellation performing above required specifications. Realizing the growth of military and civil reliance on GPS to provide accurate information, there is absolutely no intent to let the current demanding standards or the constellation’s health slip. In fact, modifications are already being integrated into the current Block II satellites to improve performance. At the same time, we’re working on a modernized GPS III constellation that will dramatically improve GPS capabilities and performance for all users.

Q: In addition to the importance of GPS, what other lessons have you learned from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and what improvements in space assets can we expect to see in future conflicts?

A: While we’re still assessing lessons learned from current operations, let me give you one example. As I mentioned, SATCOM is one area we’re seeing great utility in OEF and we’ve seen an increased reliance upon commercial SATCOM. Approximately 60 percent of the military bandwidth we use today comes from the commercial sector. The fusion of all-source intelligence data and associated dissemination is done via SATCOM. In order to maximize use of limited SATCOM channels, we’ve seen an increased use of Demand Assigned Multiple Access radios.

Q: MILSATCOM is an area of keen interest by other services, with everyone wanting more bandwidth and capabilities. What’s in store for the future in this area?

A: Air Force Space Command supports all DoD unified commanders and services as well as intelligence and other government agencies by developing and fielding DoD SATCOM systems. Information dominance is key to all DoD operations and missions and advances in collecting, processing and sharing information create new dependencies on space-based information transport systems. Our future SATCOM system must provide instant accessibility, survivability, coverage and flexibility. To meet the near term needs, AFSPC [through SMC] has two new SATCOM systems under contract:

The Wideband Gapfiller System (WGS) satellites, being built by Boeing Satellite Systems, are designed to provide our warfighting forces greatly increased capacity and unprecedented flexibility. They will augment the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) satellites by providing additional X-band communications bandwidth as well as making new military Ka-band bandwidth available to our combat forces. These satellites will employ a digital channelizer system providing new capabilities to route and link connectivity between any X- or Ka-band ground terminals accessing the satellite. There are currently three Gapfiller Satellites on contract with options for an additional three satellites and the first launch is scheduled for June 2004.

The AEHF satellites, being built by Lockheed Martin and TRW, are designed to provide worldwide nuclear survivable communications to the President and nuclear force elements. Additionally, they will also provide highly protected communications connectivity to our deployed forces. These systems will replace the current MILSTAR satellites and will provide more than 10 times the throughput, as well as increased coverage and connectivity. The first AEHF satellite is scheduled to launch in March 2007 with a fully operational constellation planned for 2010.

In addition to Gapfiller and AEHF, we’re also looking out towards 2015 and 2020. AFSPC is working with the recently established Transformational Communications Office to define an integrated DoD and Intelligence Transformational SATCOM and Relay System (TSRS) as part of the larger Transformational Communications Architecture. This system must support the tremendous growth in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information required for information dominance and operational awareness and provide flexibility to support network-centric operations. These transformational SATCOM and relay systems will use new laser, information processing and protection technologies to ensure that information needed by the warfighter is available. We are currently participating in concept, technology and architecture studies to define these transformational systems and to develop an evolutionary roadmap that will allow us to field incremental capabilities as technology and funding permit. The program is working toward a first launch in fiscal 2009.

Q: As provider of the space component of a joint battle picture, how has AFSPC transitioned from a system-focused organization of the past to an organization that is focused on capabilities for warfighting?

A: In the past, there was a tendency to acquire a system or new technology and then figure out how to apply it. In keeping with the chief of staff’s effort to make capabilities and warfighting effects the drivers for everything we do, we’ve refocused our efforts. Rather than focusing on specific systems, we’re emphasizing the best way to achieve the desired effects.

We’ve started two in-depth Analyses of Alternatives (AoAs) to find the best method to achieve more responsive and economical spacelift, and to track moving targets on the ground from space. For example, the spacelift capability we choose based on the results of our Operationally Responsive Spacelift AoA might turn out to be a reusable military spaceplane. It could also turn out to be a new generation of expendable boosters or in some other fashion. The goal is to find the best way to achieve a particular warfighting effect and that will dictate the specific technology or system we pursue.

We’re also intimately involved in the broader Air Force efforts to change to a capabilities-based mindset. The Air Force has created seven task force concepts to compile the capability sets we anticipate needing on the battlefield. Those task forces are Global Strike, Homeland Security, Global Mobility, Space & C4ISR, Global Response, Nuclear Response, and Air & Space Expeditionary Force. The capabilities identified in those documents will drive our future strategic planning and affect our future procurement.

Our new capabilities-based mindset has also changed how we judge our program effectiveness. My vice commander, Lieutenant General Bob Hinson, and I represent Space Command at the new Air Force Capabilities Review and Risk Assessment meetings. These meetings have moved from a traditional program review to a review of how the program contributes to achieving the required capabilities and effects. Taking all our acquisition programs together, we can then evaluate our effectiveness.

Q:What’s the status of the Space Commission recommendations that are being implemented?

A: In response to Secretary Rumsfeld’s direction, we have made significant strides in the implementation of the Space Commission recommendations. The most significant recommendations impacting AFSPC were the realignment of SMC, the establishment of a process for prioritizing space research and development programs and funding, and the assignment of a separate four-star officer to command AFSPC.

The realignment of SMC from Air Force Materiel Command to AFSPC put in place a single Air Force major command with responsibility for space system acquisition and space system operations. The realignment also meant the transfer of approximately 3,300 personnel and over $6 billion from Air Force Materiel Command. We are continuing to refine our command’s roles and responsibilities with this new organization and anticipate significant advantages will emerge from this full spectrum management approach to Air Force space systems.

We have developed a process to prioritize space research and development efforts within the Air Force laboratory system. This process is a collaborative effort with Air Force Materiel Command to ensure our research and development programs continue to help us meet the warfighter’s needs.

Finally, the recommendation for a separate four-star had a huge impact on my life and I’m honored to be in this position. As I said before, the ability to dedicate my full attention to managing Air Force space systems from concept to employment is a great advantage. We have entered into a new era for National Security Space systems. To fully capitalize on emerging capabilities it is essential that we have a commander with the responsibility for concept to employment of all Air Force space systems.

Q: The Space Commission report discusses the creation of a “space cadre.” What’s the status on this initiative?

A: The Space Commission called for DoD initiatives to “create and sustain a cadre of space professionals.” We agree that establishing a strong, proactive space professional development program is essential to safeguarding our nation’s leadership position in space. The commission recommendations, and subsequent secretary of defense direction, provide an opportunity to more deliberately focus our space professional development.

To implement this direction, we developed a Space Professional Strategy that describes a structured approach for developing space professionals. Our strategy is comprehensive and provides a blueprint for better developing the training, education, and experience needs of our space professionals while recognizing the unique roles those officers, enlisted members and DoD civilian employees play in national security space. Additionally, this strategy addresses the varied disciplines represented in the space professional cadre—a cadre that accomplishes the complex functions required to take space systems from concept to employment.

We have been actively working this strategy since I took command and I plan to present it to the Air Force and OSD leadership in the near future. We will then begin the harder task of implementing the initiatives identified in the strategy. Given the importance and complexity of professional development, we recognize this is a long-term commitment but it’s the right thing to do—for our business and for our country. We are making progress and we will continue to work this until we have it right.

Secretary [of the Air Force] Roche summed it up best when he said, “The resource most critical to ensuring our space superiority in the years to come is not technological or fiscal—it’s people, like everything else in the Air Force.” As military dependence on space grows, the Air Force must meet the challenge of developing the right people to acquire, operate, and employ military space capabilities. We have the best space operators and acquirers in the world and we will continue to improve on that standard of excellence.

Q: The Space Commission report also addresses gaining and maintaining space superiority. What capabilities are AFSPC developing to control space?

A: Capabilities that allow us to control space and maintain space superiority are part one of our biggest “growth areas” for the future—counterspace operations. Clearly, space has become a military and economic center of gravity and we must develop and employ capabilities that will allow us to attain and maintain a desired degree of space superiority—allowing friendly forces to exploit space capabilities while negating an adversary’s ability to do the same.

We are researching technologies to protect increasingly vital space capabilities from potential counterspace threats. At the same time, we are taking steps to achieve space situation awareness by modernizing our space surveillance infrastructure and enhancing the command and control structure. We’re developing a single integrated space picture that will provide complete situation awareness and the ability to command and control assigned space forces and the capabilities and effects they bring to the fight.

We are working to further protect our navigation and timing capabilities by improving GPS with increased power, anti-jam and spoofing capabilities. We are also reducing the time needed to address time-critical targets through improved space sensors and standardized systems for command and control.

Q: Though the Space Commission didn’t address AFSPC’s ICBM mission, it is clearly a big part of the capabilities you provide. What is the status of ICBM modernization and follow-on programs?

A: Today, we have modernization programs for the Minuteman III’s support equipment, ground components, as well as airborne components—ensuring our combat force remains capable through 2020.

Farthest along is our Guidance Replacement Program (GRP) where we continue to progress with production and deployment. As of December 16, 2002, we have deployed 131 new missile guidance sets and exceeded one million operational hours in the field. Our Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP), also in production and deployment, is progressing well with 39 of the new PRP boosters deployed in the field. Another of our propulsion programs, the Propellant System Rocket Engine (PSRE) life extension program is in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of acquisition. The PSRE is a low thrust, multi-engine liquid propulsion system used for post-boost reentry system maneuvering. In September, the program conducted a successful transition hot fire test validating our hot fire test facility.

We are also extending the life our Launch Control Center’s (LCC) weapon system command and control with the ICBM Crypto Upgrade (ICU) program and Rapid Execution and Combat Targeting (REACT) Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). As we deactivate the Peacekeeper weapon system, and closely associated with REACT SLEP, we are continuing our efforts to move the Mk 21 reentry vehicle to the Minuteman III with the Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV) program.

 Along with extending the life of our LCC to LF command and control, we are also modernizing our survivable communications links for command and control from the president and secretary of defense. The Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) Program (MMP) provides replacement and upgrade to our aging survivable communication. MMP began production in fiscal year 2002 and it is progressing well toward an April 2003 deployment start.

Q: Does the command’s ICBM force have a future role in the discussion about non-nuclear global strike capabilities?

A: The command is currently pursuing an acquisition strategy to replace the Minuteman III ICBM force. While there are several life extension programs to extend the operational life of the Minuteman III force to 2020, AFSPC is responding to national level guidance to begin to develop a strategy to replace this critical piece of our nation’s deterrent force. One of the key steps in this strategy will be an analysis of alternatives that will begin in October 2003.

Additionally, our Directorate of Requirements is in the early stages to validate the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Mission Need Statement (MNS). The PGS mission need is to strike globally and rapidly with joint forces against high-payoff targets in a single or multi-theater environment. We plan to begin an Analysis of Alternatives exploring concepts related to a non-nuclear global strike capability after the Joint Requirements Oversight Council validates the MNS, currently scheduled for January 2003.



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