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News | Sept. 29, 2009

Space Command boss talks of space, cyber connection

By Chuck Paone Air Force News

Addressing the Air Force Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Symposium here Sept. 29, the leader of the Air Force Space community said space and cyberspace are integrally connected.

"Think of space and cyber as circles on a Venn diagram," said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command. Those circles, he noted, clearly overlap.

"In that overlap is access and persistence," he said.

The general said he doesn't think anyone fully understands the connection between space and cyber just yet, but he's sure it's a powerful one.

One key connection is that cyber capabilities help enable the utility of space systems.

"Space allows us to operate in small groups in distributed ways," the general said. "In near-peer conflict, space allows us to complete the kill chain. In global assessment, it's the unblinking, or almost unblinking, eye. In crisis management, it allows us to see what we'd otherwise miss. . . .

"It allows us to navigate with accuracy, to communicate with certainty, strike with precision and see with clarity. Those are enormous war fighting advantages. "

General Kehler said it was important for him to address this conference, in part because of the presence of its co-sponsor, the Electronic Systems Center, headquartered at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

"We rely heavily on ESC," he said, calling AFSPC "a demanding customer. " He labeled the center the main provider to the Joint Space Operations Center, and said it would be the same for cyber.

He noted that the acquisition community is still under the gun to find ways to deliver capabilities faster.

"Our acquisition systems are not keeping pace with the speed of need," General Kehler said.

Those needs vary, he said. In some cases, the need is for a new capability in five years, which generally can be handled.

"In other cases, the need is in five minutes, and we don't have too many acquisition programs that can do that," he said. "Yet that is exactly where we're headed; we're certainly headed that way in cyberspace, in some cases, with space too. "

The general said he understood that the acquisition community is constrained within a certain box. But leaders of both ESC and the Space and Missile Center at Los Angles Air Force Base understand that "within that box there's a lot of running room and we need to start running. "

General Kehler also echoed a theme offered up by retired former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper at the conference opening

Sept. 28. Talking about the concept of "operationally responsive space," General Kehler said, it's about "using the things you already have, better and faster. "

The general covered many other subjects during his speech, including the intense focus on maintaining inter-continental ballistic missiles.

"Perfection is the standard again," he said.

The general also discussed the Air Force's nearly 10-year streak of successful satellite launches, acknowledging that, statistically, a failure may be due.

"But not this time," he said, repeating the words and attitude his operators apply to each and every launch.

He also talked about his two near-term goals for the newly created 24th Air Force, the operational cyber arm located in San Antonio.

"The first is to stabilize the patient," he said. "We need to get our arms around the Air Force network and provide mission assurance even under duress," he said.

That doesn't mean the Air Force can or should try to protect everything, though, the general said.

Cyberspace is like a densely populated urban area, he said, with people doing all the same things online they'd do on city streets. In that environment, vandals, criminals, spies and determined nation states also are lurking. But just as a person doesn't call the Air Force when his or her wallet is stolen, the Air Force is not responsible for all hostile Web-related actions.

The second charge for 24th AF officials is to posture Air Force Cyber Command to be the Air Force component for U.S. Cyber Command.

"I don't want to duplicate what the other services are doing," he said.

A full lineup of speakers from government and industry are still on tap here, including a dinner speech by Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley.

Sept. 30 events will feature more discussions and key presentations. Featured speakers include Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

Along with ESC, the Air Force C2ISR Symposium is being sponsored by the Paul Revere Chapter of the Air Force Association.