29th National Space Symposium

By General C. Robert Kehler | Colorado Springs, Colo | April 16, 2013

General Kehler: Thank you Bill, and thank you, Lon. Lon, I've got to tell you, I'm a little nervous. This is my first appearance at the comedy club. [Laughter]. I was going to start off by saying good evening, but I'm not going to say that. Oh yes I am. Good evening. I can't help myself.

Thanks for braving the cold and the snow and the wonderful evening to have spring time in the Rockies. Isn't this great? By the way, in other parts of the country we call this winter. We call it spring time here.

By the way, I've experience this kind of spring time here before in June. We can call this summer.

My thanks also to Marty and Elliott, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate this. This is always an impressive gathering. This is one of those events that if there's any possible way to do it I'm glad to be here.

General Shelton, it's always good. Linda, it's good to be here breaking bread with our service component which is terrific. I think you all know that Air Force Space Command is one of the service components to Strategic command. We could not do our jobs without them, that's for sure. So I'm glad to be here with you tonight.

As you know, we across the government have curtailed an awful lot of our travel, and it was good that I could link up my attendance here with some other visits. It's good to have the component in town here, as we can conduct some other business there as well, as well as the functional component for integrated missile defense. So we've got a busy day tomorrow, but I'm glad to be with all of you tonight.

I must say, this isn't the first time that I've spoken at the symposium. Last evening I was sitting at home between watching the basketball game and trying to finish up this speech, which isn't quite finished yet, which is why I'm stalling. It will obviously be finished in a minute one way or the other.

Usually I like to, I'm kind of like Lon, although my jokes are a little more tasteful, Lon. Because of that I'm out of jokes. I said to Marge last night, and many of you in the room know Marge so you'd appreciate this. I said honey, I'm going to need a joke for tomorrow night. She said, come here. She did what she always does, she picked up her Blackberry and she started to look up jokes. So here we go. This is the one that Marge gave me last night.

A man is standing in his house when suddenly out on the street there's a high speed car coming down the street, screeching tires, obviously the engine's racing and it slides to a stop in the driveway. The door flings open and the front door bursts in and this man's wife comes in and she says, "Honey, I've just won $350 million in the lottery. Pack your bags." He said, "Great, should I pack for the beach or the mountains?" She said, "I don't care, just pack your bags."

So I heard that from my wife last night. Those of you who know her, know her. She meant that. So I didn't think it was funny. But I'll tell her you thought it was funny.

This symposium, I actually have a speech to give, so everybody settle down now, and you're going to have to listen to me. No question, though, this symposium has been the premier forum to discuss space issues for over 20 years now. Almost 30 when you think about it. The Space Foundation's been around for 29, and I'm honored to be with all of you this evening. I wish I could have attended more of the events today, but the press of real world events wouldn't permit that.

This being a space symposium it wouldn't surprise you, though, that I planned to provide my perspectives regarding United States Strategic Command's space responsibilities. Now you're obviously, take a look at me, you're going to get a military perspective on some things this evening. That's not the only perspective that there is about space. And I think everybody in this room knows that.

Our own United States government decided some years ago, in fact all the way back to the Eisenhower administration, to separate civil space from national security space. We did that for a reason. And I think that has proven to be a pretty good arrangement over the years. It allows us to interact in all the appropriate places where we share things because among the other things we share between civil space and national security space, we share the industrial base. We share some facilities. We share astronauts, for example, and people. But we've made a distinction in our country between civil space and national security space and I think for good reason. You're going to hear a national security space perspective from me this evening, and that shouldn't surprise you.

It was 11 years ago that Strategic command assumed the responsibilities of United States Space Command when those two commands merged. Much has happened since then, and I thought you might appreciate my assessment this evening on where we stand a decade into this old new command because as Strategic Command and its predecessor Strategic Air Command, my command has been around since 1946. It predates the establishment of the United States Air Force, as a matter of fact. People say well, but that was an Air Force thing, it was only an Air Force thing. Let me remind you that SAC was two things. It was a specific combatant command and it was an Air Force major command, so the combatant command lineage does in fact extend to Strategic Command today.

A lot has happened in the last ten years. A lot has happened in the last ten minutes I'm sure while I've been standing up here talking. Uncertainty and complexity continue to dominate our national security landscape. Today's operating environment is increasingly characterized for the potential for a wide variety of conflict and probably across all domains. It is an operating environment unlike any we've ever seen before. State and non-state actors alike can employ highly adaptive combinations of strategies and tactics and capabilities to simultaneously and quickly exploit and transit political, geographic and domain boundaries. Things are different today than they were ten years ago.

These hybrid threats are challenging all of our earlier assumptions. They are stressing our plans, our practices and our organizational structures. They are compounding unity of effort and they are demanding flexible and innovative approaches to create effects that are tailored to the unique actors, circumstances, and scenarios that we face. In short, technologies that allow us to move freely about the globe will likely make yesterday's battlefield tomorrow's global battle space.

Of course we recognize that STRATCOM's heritage is nuclear and we will never waiver from the highest vigilant standards of excellence that the nuclear mission demands. However, today's STRATCOM is far more diverse and versatile than ever before and is positioned to help address both uncertainty and complexity.

The missions and forces assigned to this command allow us to gain a global perspective and also to create synergy from a range of strategic capabilities. Those that can create decisive impact, those that can affect large physical areas. Those that can act across great distances. Those that persist over long periods of time. Those that change the status quo in some fundamental way. And those that provide the President ready military options in extreme circumstances.

Those capabilities and those abilities are unique among the combatant commands. STRATCOM's nuclear and conventional strikes, space, cyber, and other capabilities remain foundational to confronting the challenges of the future. The United States can neither deter adversaries and assure allies nor prevail in conflict without them. Simply put, STRATCOM's responsibilities and capabilities underwrite freedom of action for our nation and generate viable options for our national leaders.

Our seemly diverse missions share commonalities. They are strategic in nature, global in scope, and they are interdependent with the responsibilities and capabilities of the other combatant commands and the whole of the United States government and our key allies.

I don't have to remind anyone in this room how important space is to our national security and the security of our allies and partners. It is also important to our economy, to civil activities and scientific discovery. Make no mistake. Space operations underpin U.S. national military objectives and they enhance the combat capability of the joint force. No other armed force relies on space as broadly or deeply as the U.S. military and no other military force derives the same unprecedented operational advantages from its use of space capabilities.

Space capabilities have offered us recurring access to denied or distant areas around the globe that has proven vital to monitoring strategic military developments as well as supporting and verifying treaty compliance. No one can dispute the value of GPS, satellite communications, weather satellites, ISR, and warning to decision-making military operations and homeland security.

But times have changed. You heard General Shelton earlier today talk about this is a confluence of events. If times have changed, as he offered and I would offer as well, we have to change. Things have to be different as we go forward and I think we all know that. Today's space environment is characterized by more participants, more activity, and the proliferation of a variety of capabilities that eventually can threaten our access to and freedom of action in space during a conflict.

Potential adversaries have noted the decisive advantages we have gained by using space. The importance of space and the new realities associated with space have led to updated national policies, new strategies, clear responsibilities and updated plans. The new presidential level National Space Policy in 2010 was followed by a new National Security Space Strategy signed by the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence in 2011. In 2012 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a first-ever classified National Military Strategy for Space Operations. In December of 2012 the Department of Defense issued a new Space Policy Directive.

Taken together these documents restated a long held policy commitment that the sustainability and stability of the space environment as well as free access to and use of space are vital national interests for the United States of America. These documents also emphasize the free use of space by all for peaceful purposes and stress the importance of partnerships and a strong industrial base. They also charge the Department of Defense with a number of important missions and acknowledge that we must be prepared to protect our space assets, ground stations and networks if that ever becomes necessary.

Responsibilities are equally clear and here are some things that maybe you didn't know about Strategic Command, because regarding space, the commander of USSTRATCOM is responsible for the following things. And I would mention that when the document that assigns us the responsibilities assigned by the President, it doesn't say that STRATCOM was responsible for it. It says the commander of STRATCOM is responsible. That puts the who in it. I must say, I read that document very closely, after I was confirmed for this job. I read it pretty closely before I was confirmed for this job. Because it does say the Commander of USSTRATCOM is responsible for planning and conducting a full range of space operational missions. I'm paraphrasing here. Advocating for space capabilities. Serving as the DoD manager for human space flight operations. Providing warning and assessment of attack on space assets. Serving as the single point of contact and representative for military space operational matters. Conducting space situational awareness operations for a wide variety of users to include civil and as appropriate, commercial and foreign space entities.

These are tremendous responsibilities and all have grown in importance, especially the situational awareness responsibility that now consumes a great deal of our time and effort.

We don't execute most of these responsibilities from my headquarters in Omaha. Lieutenant General Susan Helms and our Joint Functional Component Command for Space, of JFCC Space for short, plans and executes most of them from her headquarters at Vandenberg. She also runs the Joint Space Operation Center, the JSPOC as everyone calls it, which is the focal point for space operations and supporting activity for all the combatant commands and agencies. Ensuring that space capabilities will be available whenever and wherever they are needed is one of my top priorities and STRATCOM has spent much of the last year improving our contingency plans and working with our service components to enhance the resilience of our space capabilities.

As I said, space situational awareness consumes much of General Helms' time and energy. I often remind her that it helps to make someone who has actually been a satellite responsible for tracking satellites. I think there's poetic justice in that, don't you?

Space situational awareness or SSA for short, is foundational to freedom of action in all domains. SSA involves not only characterizing the dynamic physical environment and the objects in it, but also the electromagnetic spectrum through which we transmit and receive spacecraft commands and mission data. Protecting our assets from unwanted electromagnetic interference is a growing concern. We are in the process of streamlining procedures to detect, identify, characterize, geo-locate and resolve such problems. We are also providing conjunction analysis and collision warning for a growing number of space operators around the world. Our intent is to reduce the risk of collision that would create dangerous space debris. In essence, we're talking about safety of flight.

To give you some sense of the increased workload, over the last several years STRATCOM has entered into 35 signed commercial SSA sharing agreements. In 2012 we provided orbital data to 90 commercial and foreign and 180 U.S. entities. We reviewed and received nearly 500,000 satellite observations and screened over 1,000 active satellites on a daily basis. From those screenings we provided over 10,000 conjunction warnings, supported 75 conjunction avoidance maneuvers, and fulfilled over 300 orbital data requests for more than 85 separate entities. Those numbers will continue to grow every year, lending urgency to SSA improvements and establishment of appropriate rules of the road that will govern orbital behavior and allow us to more easily detect problems as they occur.

We're also working to improve our partnership with key friends and allies through a concept called Combined Space Operations. This concept is built upon the current Joint Space Operation Center at Vandenberg with virtual connections between it and other nation's space operation centers around the world. This new approach is similar to operations on the land, at sea or in the air by enabling partner nations to work together to maintain situational awareness, and to synchronize activities when that's appropriate.

Now while improving situational awareness is a key aspect of preparing for the future, we are taking additional steps as well. First, we continue to pursue the very best and brightest people and are working with our service components to ensure they are well trained with the right balance of technical and tactical skills and experience. When you're finished with your degree at MIT, I have a paper I'd like for you to sign.

We're very fortunate to have outstanding military, civilian and contractor professionals with an inspiring level of expertise, pride and patriotism. It's our biggest challenge to ensure we continue that trend even in the face of fiscal uncertainty. Access to orbit remains vital to national security, and the key to achieving it is an industrial base that is capable, responsive and affordable. Diversity in the launch marketplace could prove a positive development, and accordingly we support the efforts of the Air Force to expand the available industrial base of certified and proven launch providers. The success of other companies in addition to ULA is an encouraging step in the right direction, but we must continue to invest in capabilities that assure our access to space.

I mentioned the increased demand on situational awareness. We're going to have to maintain a robust and enduring capability to detect, track and analyze the tens of thousands of orbiting objects. Clearly there is an international demand for continued and ever-improving SSA, but challenges remain. New sensors, better integration of existing sensors, and tools like the JSPOC mission system or JMS are vital to our future.

With better situational awareness we need rules of the road, as I mentioned earlier. Rules that enhance our national security by helping us focus on the places and activities that may pose a threat. Speed limits may not stop speeders, but they show you who the speeders are. WE need these rules to help identify the potential bad actors.

We must also improve the resilience of our space, ground and network components. Here we have to work together to develop new architectures and concepts that take advantage of hosting, ride sharing and other ideas that I know all of you are working on.

We also need better plans, better operating concepts, tactics, techniques and procedures to improve the protection of our space capabilities as they become more and more threatened as time passes.

Finally, we have to work with all of you to ensure we have a solid industrial base with the right people leading and working in it. We must continue to rely on you to give us the tools we need, tools that in the future will be capable of going into harm's way and tools that are lower cost, maybe self-aware and smarter.

We can't ignore the very real financial issues our country is facing today. The Secretary of Defense recently announced that he has directed Deputy Secretary Carter and General Dempsey to look across the department to assess where resource adjustments could be made. None of us knows how that review will unfold, but there is no doubt that our space-based systems are expensive and will be part of that review. Regardless of the outcome, we must find ways to drive costs down as we look to the future.

I focused on space this evening, as I said I would. But I can't really talk about space any more without bringing cyberspace into the conversation. Space and cyberspace share connection points across both of their domains and no doubt about it, we have just as many challenges in cyberspace as we do in space. Not only are those challenges operational in nature, but they are also intellectual in nature. Maybe the greatest threats to our space capability will come through cyberspace. And maybe that threat will come as espionage against your intellectual property.

So this evening I'm going to ask you to lock your doors. Tomorrow's space capabilities are being designed and subsequently are stolen from under our noses. Right now, tonight, someone from halfway around the world is trying to get into your network, looking to steal what you are developing. Espionage saves a spy millions of dollars in investment and years of effort. Espionage is a great way to evaluate our capabilities and design counters to them. The results of espionage mean that in some future conflict a young American dies or we lose.

No one does space better than our U.S. industry team. That's why cyber spies are after you.

So if I'm one of those people who's going to build a better mouse trap, I'm not going to take the plans and make a thousand copies and hand them out to everyone on the street corner, but that is essentially what we're doing when we put our most critical proprietary information, let alone state secrets, on an unprotected network connected to the unprotected internet. How can anyone stand up and say look what happened to me, when their property is stolen if they aren't locking their doors?

I know my analogy is way over-simplified. This is a shared responsibility for sure, but each of us has a responsibility. Espionage and theft have been around for as long as human beings have existed. That's why we lock our doors. But spies aren't coming through the doors in your building any more. They're coming through the doors in your computer, so you better close it, lock it, put controls on it, and alarm it.

Cyber security requires a whole of government approach and a number of important steps have been taken recently. We know we need a stronger and real time partnership with industry. Cooperation and collaboration between the government and industry, the military and industry, the warfighters and industry, is going to remain important. I think it's going to get more important as we go forward, whether the subject is space or cyberspace.

We all are in for some very challenging days ahead. Challenging for the military, for the industry that supports us, and even to our allies. I predict a bumpy road. Financially, geopolitically and technologically, the way forward has many paths and has a lot of uncertainty.

I'm not a pessimist. I don't believe that road is impassable. After all, it shouldn't be impassable to us. We have GPS. We don't even have to stop at the gas station to ask directions -- not that any of you would. But you don't have to. But we need to choose our path very carefully.

Those changes occurring as we speak and those coming tomorrow will challenge us, but I spent the last several years at STRATCOM and before that as the Air Force Space Command commander watching what all of you do together. As a result I stand here tonight very confident in our capabilities to defend the nation and our allies, despite our challenges.

I'm nothing but encouraged and impressed by the young men and women who we are fortunate enough to have serving in our military today because they are the ones who endure. They are the ones who are able to handle whatever we send in their direction. Together with them and with our, our industry partners, the future of space and thus our national security has a bright future.

Thanks very much for the invitation. I sincerely appreciate everything you do and I look forward to working with you as time passes into the future.

Thank you very much.