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SPEECH | April 4, 2017

33rd Space Symposium - The Space Warfighters Luncheon

(As Delivered/Edited for Clarity)

Brig. Gen. John E. Shaw, U.S. Strategic Command Global Operations deputy director: Was that Lady Gaga?  I’m not sure what the theme song was. Thanks Deborah, and thanks so much for the Space Symposium here.  I’m really excited about the opportunity to come and chat.

It didn’t really hit me until I walked in, what a diverse set of folks we have here.  There are folks that I worked for when I was a lieutenant, I won’t name Gen. Shelton, and a lot of other bosses.  My last boss before I went to STRATCOM, Gen. Raymond, I sat at the table with him.  So a full spectrum of my career of bosses.  And one I think many of you might not know, I actually worked for Adm. Ellis, on a little known operation called Operation Noble Anvil, a long time from the Vulcan region far away.  But it’s good to see you again, sir.


It’s just wonderful, coming from Omaha where you’re kind of sequestered down in the basement there, it’s nice to come here and just kind of have this big massive space reunion that we have here at the Space Symposium.  So I’m excited to be here for the week as well.

What’s kind of also nice about the Space Symposium is that it’s not just about the national security piece of space.  We’ve got a lot here, you’ve got the civil side, you’ve got the tech side.  It’s kind of a combination of a think tank conference with a Comic Con conference with a technical expo, all kind of rolled into one.  I think that’s great.  Space is cool, and we’re really excited about that, from every possible dimension.  That’s another wonderful piece about the Space Symposium that I’m excited about.

I have seen some of your loyal space enthusiasts, tracking this latest controversy.  Of course what I’m talking about is the re-elevation of Pluto to planetary status.  It’s back, it’s back.

I thought since so many of you are tracking it I wanted to make sure you knew STRATCOM’s position on that. STRATCOM on the subject of Pluto being elevated back to the status of a planet. STRATCOM, unlike Mickey Mouse, doesn’t have a dog in this fight.  

I didn’t come to talk about Pluto.  Here’s what I do want to talk about.  There has been a lot of talk in national security circles in the last couple of years about space as a domain for warfighting.  And in fact, I’ve actually seen in the last couple of years, a tremendous shift, transition in the focus of our national security leadership at looking at this particular problem.  I think that’s a great thing.

But I also, part of me is also kind of scratching my head.  Why should we be surprised?  Is it really so surprising to find that we find ourselves threatened in the space domain? That we would consider talking about warfighting in space, or wars that extend to space?  Why should we be surprised?  And I think that we should not be surprised. 

What I’ve done, I’ve constructed a little logical proof, since we’re all techies here, right?  We like this sort of thing.  I’d like to walk through with you that should kind of define for us why we think, when we should be surprised and why this new focus on space as a warfighting domain is something that we should readily accept and understand to be part of our future as we go forward.

So, who doesn’t like an elegant, logical proof, or an inelegant one that I will present to you now.  Let me start with a postulate.  We have to start somewhere to prove.  My high school math teacher, Mrs. Bolt, hopefully she would be proud of me after I got through writing out this proof.  I thought about how she would grade me on this.  Probably not perfectly. 

But in the postulate, space is cool, but it’s not special.  I think those of us that have grown up in the space arena understand what I mean by cool.  The people you see out here that are attending the symposium and across the full spectrum of space activities would say that space is cool.  But it’s not really special as a domain.  Why would it be special?

You can talk to your average sailor who loves the sea, and they think it’s cool.  But I don’t think they would say it’s special and set apart from other things.  You can talk to an aviator and they’ll tell you, of course, that the air domain is cool and really fun.  They probably grew up inspired in it as many of us get inspired by space.  But they wouldn’t say it was special unless you can set it apart from all other domains. So why would we say that for space?  I don’t think it’s special.  That’s why I think my postulate runs true, it’s cool, but it’s not special.

In fact, if you think of all the domains, space should be the least special of all because there’s so much of it.  It really doesn’t stand out.  That’s piece one.

Let’s go to the next step.  If you buy that space is not special, then we can apply something called the inclusion principle, right?  If it’s not special, and it’s part of us, that’s in every, all the qualities of the rest of us, that has to apply to that particular piece too.  Logically, I hope you’re following this.

So if space is not special, that would mean that the full range of human experiences will extend into space.  The full range of human experiences.  Our hopes, our dreams, our challenges, and our frailties all extend into the space domain.  Logically, if it’s not special, that has to be true.

All right, I’d like to give you an example of why I think that’s true.  Something to maybe illustrate it a little bit better.

We’re all tracking Elon Musk’s plan to colonize Mars, right?  And who here wants to be on that?  There’s nobody here who wants to raise their hand to be part of that?  Well, I’m here to say publicly, and I think [inaudible], my Air Force career is over so I don’t think I’m trying to try and affect where my Air Force time has gone. I’m here to say publicly that I would actually volunteer for the job I have not heard about yet on that colony and that is the role of sheriff. 

Now do you get my point?  Everything we take to Mars has been evolved from what we have here on Earth.  Do we really think we could get away with a colony on Mars without a sheriff?

That’s point number two.  We take it all with us.

By the way, when I was thinking about that point, I was reminded of a movie I saw when I was a kid.  [A Sean Connery movie “Outland” where he was a sheriff on the Jovian moon Io.]  I don’t know if you’ve seen this movie.  All right.  Those of you who haven’t, put it on your movie list there, or Netflix or whatever.  It’s a good Sean Connery ‒ type fiction flick.  It’s actually a good flick.  A Sean Connery science fiction.   

All right, looking at step three of the logical proof.  So if you forget the fact that everything we do here on Earth we take with us into the space domain.  Then this next step is a variation on the pigeonhole principle. The logic step here means that you basically have to attribute, you can’t take them and pigeonhole them away if they have qualities that others have as well.  So if the full range of human experiences in other domains will extend similarly into space, then you cannot logically treat those domains independently.  And you can’t treat the space domain independent from the air domains or the land domains and the sea domains if they all have the same qualities.  It would make no sense to do that.

So you would have to rapidly come to the conclusion, if you follow my, if you are with me on my proof here, and I’m not the first one to say it, that there is not something special as a space war.  There’s just the broader human experience of war that has a space component.  There’s no real such thing as space warfighting by itself.  There’s warfighting as a human experience of which space is a component. 

That also means, by logical extension, there’s no such thing as a Space Warfighting Luncheon! Therefore, any such luncheon in which you participate is a figment of your imagination and the calories were free.

So if I haven’t already gotten a little bit heretical here, let me get heretical even more.  So a bit of reference, something that you probably can treat as almost space scripture today, and that was President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University back in the early ‘60s,  This is what he said in part of his speech.  “Only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean (talking about space), will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.” 

There’s a logical fallacy, actually, in that statement as my high school teacher Mrs. Shultz would point out clearly.  And that’s the use of the operator or, a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.  What logically excludes the two of them from each other or all the possibilities you can imagine?

So as a Massachusetts native, it’s a huge heresy pointing out a Massachusetts President’s flaw here  in a major speech that is now space scripture. I’m just pointing out to you, I think it’s a flaw.  I think it maybe has somehow informed the way that we’ve looked at the space domain in many ways in the decades since.

So I submit to you it can really be both, it’s really all things in between.

Now if you ever want clarity on military matters, I’ve learned this, go to the Marines.  I’m going to quote for you, in contrast to President Kennedy’s speech, from Marine Corps Doctrine Publication No. 1, for clarity, and it has a very complicated title ‒ Warfighting.  And here’s the quote, “Total war and perfect peace rarely exist in practice.  Instead, they are extremes between which exist relations among most political groups.” 

It’s actually fairly profound.  So you don’t have just a sea of peace, you don’t just have a theater of war.  In fact those are the things that we’re unlikely to see in any domain.  You have the full spectrum, and you spend a lot of your time in between.  I do think that’s where we’re headed with the space domain, and that’s kind of how we’re focused on it in STRATCOM right now.

If you’re not convinced yet, let me give you another example.  Is the Mediterranean a sea of peace or a theater of war?  Both today and [inaudible].  What do we want it to be?  We want it to be at peace.  Absolutely.  But people bring their own things to everything that they do and we end up with a lot more than just that.  So we strive for a sea of peace, we prepare for a theater of war, and we expect everything of those two extremes and everything in between.

That’s my logical proof.  I hope I kind of laid that out for you.

I want to transition that.  Okay, so what, now we’ve got logical proof that space is like other domains.  It’s not special, as much as we’d like it to be.  And frankly, it looks like we’re going to have issues in the space domain in the years, the decades, the centuries, the eons to come.  I believe we will.

That’s a little bit of STRATCOM perspective.

So it’s interesting, as I look over my career, which is getting pretty long now.  It’s almost the half-life of strontium.  I’ve seen actually three major shifts.  When I came in as a lieutenant we talked about the contribution of space to the fight.  That was kind of the Desert Storm era. Then about midway through my career, I was working for Adm. Ellis or the OIF period, we talked about integration and Gen. Jumper was really big on that.  Integration of space into the fight.  Now we’ve kind of reached this new level, I think in the last couple of years, and I think Gen. Hyten says it best when he talked about normalizing.  Normalizing space into warfighting.  You don’t really integrate air power into the fight today.  It’s kind of part of it, it’s organic.  In fact it’s everybody’s business in air power.  It’s the same for a maritime power.  Any kind of fight that we’re engaged in, those kinds of domains are organic, everybody cares about them.  We don’t outsource air power in the theater, it’s part of the plan.  Well, we need to get that way in space; it’s got to become everybody’s business.  It’s not something that we integrate from far off.  It becomes organic to the plans and the operations that happen in theaters around the world.  So it’s everybody’s business.

Now, STRATCOM, I’ve got to say, we’ve spent most of my time talking about a war that extends in space and we talked about that here today, and you’ll hear a lot about that this week, but I have to remind you that STRATCOM is still primarily focused on ensuring that space capabilities are provided to other combatant commanders.  Gen. Hyten would be the first one to tell you that 99 percent of the time he’s going to be the supporting commander, making sure that space capabilities are available as needed for the fight.  When we get in a fight we want them, STRATCOM, we want them to be organic to that fight.  We want them to be in the plans of EUCOM or PACOM or some other joint force command.

So that’s a goal that we’re working towards.  And I would also add another important part of that and that is our allies and partners.  We want to make doing space together organic to our nature, not something that we pull together a team at the very last minute and bring us all together and hopefully we get on the same page.  We’re working very hard on that through several different kinds of venues to include the Schriever War Games where we found an awful lot of common ground and also where we differ on how we approach warfighting as it extends into the space domain.

There’s another piece that we’ve worked with the OSD staff on defining space operations.  We just had a meeting yesterday.  We’re finding ways that we can work together more in an operational setting and on a timeline at the speed of war, to work together on space operations.

So it’s everybody’s business.  We need to make it organic to warfighting. But at the same time, we do need to focus on space as its own operational area.  We do expect war to extend into space.  We will be threatened in space.  And we need to be prepared for that.

I do think one of the best tools that we have available to us right now in STRATCOM that actually addresses the full spectrum of activity in space, anything from what we see day to day to some greater security challenges when they come up to potentially something very valuable [inaudible] is the geosynchronous SSA program.  The geosynchronous space situational awareness program. 

Right now we are flying two of those satellites in geosynchronous orbit and they are your neighborhood watch.  They’re meant to go around and take a look at what’s out there. We expect that the Air Force will actually present to STRATCOM later this year a couple more.  And these are great.  One thing to think of these is, think of them as Coast Guard cutters.  They’re up there taking a look, if something doesn’t feel right, we want things to be ordinary, we want things to look right.  We want security issues to be proceeding normally in space.  If something doesn’t look right, we’re going to take a look at it.  If there’s one of our satellites that’s malfunctioning, we’re going to take a look at it.  We can go and look at what’s wrong with our satellites.  If there’s a piece of debris that seems to now be behaving not like a piece of debris, now we can go take a look at it.  These are tools and they’re really getting to that full spectrum of the security challenge that we will be facing in space.

And then many of you heard already, again, really the laboratory, but we’re really focusing on how do we prepare for that space fight, is the JICSpOC, the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operation Center.  By the way, that’s the last time I’m probably ever going to call it that.  Gen. Hyten in testimony today announced the new name for the JICSpOC.  It is the National Space Defense Center (NSDC).  If you haven’t seen that already come across your iPhone. 

Why are we renaming it the National Space Defense Center?  Because that more accurately talks about what it actually does.  It is focused on space defense.  It’s not all operations, remember what the JSpOC [Joint Space Operations Center] does is a huge piece of what STRATCOM is responsible for, making sure space capabilities are provided to other combatant commanders.  The NSDC is going to focus on space.  That fight that we have in space and our ability to protect and extend our capabilities and those of our allies and our partners into space.

The use of the adjective national.  That is to drive home the point that that is not just a STRATCOM mission.  It’s not just a Department of Defense mission.  It’s not just a DoD and National Reconnaissance Office mission.  It’s really a national mission.  It requires everything the intelligence community can bring to bear, the broader interagency can bring to bear.  Not too different, in some ways, if you look at some of the marvels of the National Counterterrorism Center. It takes something like that, the full government to do this space defense effort and to counter international security concerns.

So there you have it.  We’re going to start calling it the NSDC.

I do want to wrap up, and I need to go back to President Kennedy because I feel guilty about picking on his speech.  What a great speech it really is.  By the way, if you haven’t read the Rice University speech in the last year, go look at it again.  It’s just full of inspiration and things that can inspire us about the space domain as a nation, as a people.

But there is another quote I need to pull out that he mentioned there, and it is this: “We will not go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected into the hostile use of land and sea.” 

There you have it.  Actually President Kennedy was saying way back when, even though I think he had that logical disconnect fallacy in the theater of war, he was already realizing that we’re probably going to be challenged in space and we’re not going to shirk from that duty.  We’re going to respond to that and be prepared to defend ourselves in space.

So again, thanks again to the Space Foundation for inviting me to speak today.  I hope that you take away at least a few things if not maybe how to correct my logical proof later.  You can ask me later and give me some advice. And I certainly look forward to seeing you all later on as part of the symposium.  Thanks very much.