An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


SPEECH | Nov. 17, 2006

AFA Space Symposium

General Kehler: Thanks, I appreciate that introduction. I can tell you without hesitation that General Chilton just described perfectly my own objective in life -- that is make enough money to go to a beach every day. [Laughter]. So in that way the connection that I have with those of you that are here as students is strong.

It really is a pleasure to be here. Bob Largent, thanks for inviting me. Joe Sutter, George, everybody else here, leadership from the Air Force Association and other distinguished guests, fellow general officers. When Don called me some months ago and asked if I would participate in the symposium it was a difficult decision. Here's the calculus I want through – November in Omaha; November in Beverly Hills. [Laughter]. So it's a pleasure to be here today. I left the wind, the gray skies and rain of Omaha on Wednesday to wind, gray skies and rain on Washington yesterday, and through the great good fortune of the commercial airline industry, wound up here last night and was ushered into the hotel, saw about this much of a hotel room, went to bed, got up, and here I am. So it's a pleasure.

I'm going to give you my two cents worth on the subject of the symposium, and that is the way ahead for space.

Let me begin by telling you that I've now been in the Air Force for just over 30 years and I cannot tell you how many crossroads I've been at in the Air Force. It seems as though we describe every year as a crossroad. So I'm not going to use that analogy today.

I've also heard many times over the years that we are at a fork in the road. I love the Yogi Bara comment, when you're at a fork in the road, take it. So I'm not going to use that one either.

I'm going to use a different one. There's an old saying I think that many of you have heard – No matter where you go, there you are. [Laughter]. I think that describes where we are. No matter where we went, here we are. So let me talk about where we are and let me do this in a couple of ways. Let me give you the perspective from a combatant commander because it is a different perspective. It is not the same perspective as the services. That doesn't mean it's a different perspective in that it's a bad perspective or there's some disagreement between the services and a combatant commander, but by definition when you ask a combatant commander where are you and where do you need to go, you'll hear something different from a combatant commander.

So let me walk through a couple of things. I think, by the way, that General Chilton gave an absolutely spectacular description of where we have been and where we are today and I would not literally change a word in what you've already heard. In fact I'm going to adjust my remarks a little bit to focus on a couple of things from our perspective that he didn't focus on because of where he sits and because of where we sit.

First of all, STRATCOM, now very comfortably I believe, owns the Department of Defense space mission. The combatant commander responsibility for space moved from Colorado Springs when the United States Space Command was stood down just about four years ago, and to tell you the truth, we have not looked back. That's, I believe, good news.

The President has assigned us responsibility to develop space characteristics and capabilities, to advocate, to plan and to conduct space operations. That pretty well describes the space mission in my book. There's a single point of contact for military space operational matters, and we're responsible for coordinating and conducting the space campaign plan. All of those are significant responsibilities that have been given to us. As I say, I believe we fully embrace those responsibilities now and we are not looking back.

There was some concern about what would happen with that move and whether or not taking the space word out of the combatant commander's title would make a huge difference. My contention is as this has now worked out, it has not. Because, second, and most importantly perhaps in this regard, we recently established the Joint Functional Component Commander for Space. Within the United States Strategic Command we are organized with a set of joint functional components, each of which has a function that we are asking them to perform directly on behalf of the combatant commander. JFCC Space is commanded by Major General Willy Shelton, headquartered up the coast here at Vandenberg. Staffed with joint operators and planners from STRATCOM and co-located with and leverages the great space expertise and talent and operational capability resident with the Flying Tigers and the 14th Air Force. To say that JFCC Space is 14th Air Force is not technically correct from a joint standpoint, but certainly those are two organizations, the pieces of which fit together as part of a larger joint space puzzle and they fit together perfectly well by design.

JFCC Space operates the Joint Space Operations Center. That is a joint, and as you heard General Chilton say, a combined center responsible for continuous planning and operation of our joint space forces.

For those of you that may not pick up the nuance in the warfighting lingo about the difference between joint and combined. Joint means all the services in the US; combined means that we have allied participation. General Shelton already has allied participation in [JSPOC] and we are hopeful that we're going to get more.

Space capabilities are now, with the set up of JFCC Space, directly responsive to the STRATCOM commander. They're commanded and controlled in a routine manner and are provided to the combatant commanders using the standard supported/supporting relationships that we understand with all other military forces, and they're presented either directly with some kind of a direct support relationship from General Shelton, or they're presented via the space coordinating authority in the theater, and that's normally the Joint Force Air Component Commander where we normally look in the theater as the single responsible individual with authority and responsibility for the air and space pieces of what is going on in the theater. General Shelton also either has operational or tactical control of all DoD space forces. This is actually a very very positive set of steps and has helped us, I believe, get to the point where those same issues that General Chilton was mentioning about situational awareness and command and control, now become the kinds of issues that can be addressed directly by the combatant commander with his functional component.

The third piece of where I see us today is a pretty simple piece, and I think everyone in this room understands it. In fact you have caused it. This piece is our space operations are better today than they have ever been before. Our space capabilities are integral to how we fight. That's a simple statement with profound implications. Think about where we were, as General Chilton described, where we were in the Cold War with using space assets the way we used them then. They were designed for the conflict we had. They were designed for the Cold War. They were used in a Cold War context and by and large they were used to support the Cold War concepts of deterrence – long planning cycles, very short execution. So space capabilities were used in that context. That changed with Desert Shield/Desert Storm to where we needed space capabilities that could be operating with combat forces in real time. That's a much different way of approaching space and I believe that we have come a tremendously long way in that regard thanks to, in large part, the people sitting in this room. Not only are our space capabilities integral to how we fight, but I would argue that they have shaped the way we fight. Another tremendous achievement in my book. How did they do that? How did you all do that?

Well, you did that by providing our forces with better global and battlefield situational awareness. That's an enormous capability that is largely provided from space assets. You provided continuous environmental understanding. You provide precise navigation, and that leads to precise weapons effects. You provide the ability to control and synchronize military operations on a global scale. This doesn't just complement the way we fight, this shapes the way we fight.

In an Air Force audience like this I would tell you that much like air power, space power has opened a new dimension for us, a new high ground, and it contributes immeasurably to how we deter, [dissway] and defeat both traditional and new threats. In
Air Force terms we could say that space capabilities are the essence of global vigilance, global reach and global power – terms familiar to all Airmen. They're part of every military campaign, virtually every operation, exercise involving US forces today. They've proven themselves in combat to be a tremendous strategic advantage and that advantage is magnified of course when properly integrated with terrestrial activities on the surface, in the air, and on the sea.

Today's operators are the best we've ever had.
I would tell you that our investment in space training and professional development is paying off. Many of us in this room that are now in the positions that we are in have seen this change in an enormous way over the years. Many of us remember the time when, although I would agree space has always been an operational activity, the way those operations were conducted was not recognizable from those outside the space business. That has largely changed.

I used to say when I first took command of a wing to my space operators that we can do this one of two ways. If 95 percent of the United States military speaks the universal language of joint warfighting and five percent speak space operations, which part do you think will change? They would all say, well those guys have to change, and we would leave and then say yeah, you're right. [Laughter].

But as a practical matter, then I would call them back in the room and say okay, look, it's not going to happen. We need to speak the universal language of joint warfighting and when you do it is amazing how you are invited to and made part of the fight. People who are out fighting a war don't care what you look like or what badges you wear, what they care about is what you bring to the fight, and speaking the universal language of joint warfighting I believe has helped the space community bring space capabilities and space operations to the fight. It wasn't not operational before and today it's operational. I think it has now gone through a universal translator at some levels, called joint warfighting.

We also have a lot of practical experience now in our rising space operators. Practical experience within the CENTCOM AOR, and our space operators today I believe can claim combat experience, if you will, using their space systems in support of combat operations.

I spoke to one of our young space operators not so long ago that told me he has spent more time in the last two years in Kevlar than he has in a flight suit. I think that's exactly right. You find them in the joint sense; you find them forward deployed with Army and Marine units, no different than anybody else that we would describe as being on the firing line. I believe that for space operators you can't really separate the impact that a space operator has on the theater, pick a theater, any theater, from where they are located. So where you are located has nothing to do with whether or not you are in the fight. In fact most of our space operators when they walk into their operation center may just as well be forward in the theater because that's where they are. They just happen to be physically located somewhere else. I think those are enormous changes and advantages that we now have in space operations and we certainly see that from the combatant command responsible for this business. But don't just take our word for it. We hear it from the other combatant commanders as well. We can execute space operations and there's no doubt about it.

We've come a long way and my informal assessment from Omaha is we're doing very well, but my informal assessment is always we can do better, and that's not a derogatory remark, but I think that we all know that we can do better.

So what do we have to do?

It's pretty clear that if we want to retain these advantages that we have and that you all have worked so hard to create for us, not just in a national security sense, but in an economic sense for our nation, in the scientific sense for our nation, then we can't remain static and hope to retain those advantages. It doesn't work that way. We have got to continue to move forward.

To do that I think there are a couple of key challenges that we have to address. You heard General Chilton address this first one. The importance that we have placed on our activities in this medium have not gone unnoticed by friends and foes alike. It's a competitive environment, and I don't mean that to sound sinister, but that happens to be a fact. It's a competitive economic environment, it's a competitive scientific environment, and it's a competitive national security environment and we need to understand that and we need to move forward accordingly. We know that our space-based capabilities have an increasing influence on the way many nations, not just the United States, but many nations conduct their affairs whether they are scientific affairs, foreign policy affairs, economic affairs, national security affairs, there are benefits to operating in space.

You know there are a number of nations that operate there today. Some, a number, that operate more than about 10 or so satellites, and that number is increasing. So it is prudent for us to be very aware of what is going on in that domain and those steps that Air Force Space Command is taking to improve our space situational awareness, our command and control of our own assets, are critically important to us.

We expect that as more and more nations and others reap the benefits of that space activity, that unfortunately we're going to see some challenges to that, so we need to be prepared. We've seen some threats emerge. Everybody knows about the GPS jamming attempts during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Crude attempts, not successful. But it's something that we need to notice. We know that communications jamming is something that others are interested in.

So what we've got to be careful about and what prudence would demand is that we pay close attention to these emerging trends and that we not only improve our situational awareness, but that protection becomes a routine concern in our operations and in our acquisition.

The second big change that I think we have to address and the second big challenge, is meeting the demands of the warfighters. Here's the good news. The joint warfighters clearly understand and appreciate the value that space capabilities give to them in terms of their integrated effects and operations. Here's the bad news: joint warfighters clearly understand, et cetera, et cetera. And when they do that means that they're going to put a different set of demands on you. I'm going to throw myself into this joint warfighter bowl at this point and step back from the us and them, and I'm going to be part of the we. We are counting on space every day. We appreciate what space brings to the fight. We're counting on space to help us address some of the toughest warfighting challenges. Challenges like small and fleeting targets. Challenges like mobile targets. Challenges like threats that can emerge in remote or denied areas. Challenges of having visibility into denied areas in a global war that has the characteristics of this one, which is that threats can emerge literally anywhere at any time. Space, because it is often the only asset on the scene and frequently the first asset on the scene, has got to help in addressing those challenges.

We are counting on space to help us cut through the fog and friction of war. I would argue that space capabilities have changed the way we view these age-old military precepts of fog and friction. If you don't think so, go back again to Operation Iraqi Freedom during the sandstorm operations and take a hard look at what space capability was able to do in terms of making an advantage for US and coalition forces.

We're counting on space to emplace the backbone of netcentric operations – a very critical concept that we have embraced in the warfighting community in a major way. Space will form much of that backbone of netcentricity.

We're counting on space to provide reconnaissance and targeting information in real time. This is one of the major differences between what we expect out of our space capabilities today and what we expected and demanded out of them yesterday. We are now talking about real time sorts of interactions with space platforms that can feed information directly to the warfighters who need it.

That may not mean directly from that satellite directly to the person in the foxhole. Maybe that person is connected to the web. Maybe that's how they're pulling their information. But we've got to understand that we're talking about real time abilities of space platforms in Iraq. In some cases that happens today. GPS is a real time interaction. Defense support programs are real time interaction. Other, environmental sensing, et cetera, et cetera, are real time interactions. That's the kind of thing we need to be able to expand.

We're counting on the space team to deploy new capabilities quickly.

Now I'm going to take a side road here. This is one of those forks that I plan on taking one of them. The road that I will take here is the road about responsiveness and responsive space.

There's a lot of talk, maybe a lot of misunderstanding about what we are talking about at STRATCOM when we're talking about operationally responsive space. At some level it's unfortunate that we've put a name on some of these activities because then that gets associated with programmatics and before you know it we're arguing over things. But let me try to be a little bit more circumspect about this.

In Strategic Command, our view is that responsiveness is an attribute for the entire space enterprise. It is something we want across the board. And much like General Chilton characterized this discussion about operationalizing space, that's an offensive discussion to those that have worked so hard understanding fully well that they were operational since the beginning. It's a very difficult discussion to have because it sounds like an us and them, or it used to be bad and now it's good. It isn't what we're talking about when we talk about operationalizing space. It is certainly not what we're talking about when we talk about responsive space.

I think you can argue today that everybody in this room has worked over their careers to make space more responsive to people who needed space capabilities. So that activity has been going on for a long time. But our view is that within this responsive attribute across the domain, we need to focus more on the timely and targeted specific needs of the Joint Force Commander. Here are four areas where we think that a responsive way forward can be helpful.

We think we need to better connect space to the user. That does not mean that space is not connected to the user today, but it needs to be connected in a better way to the user. There are more users that are demanding, therefore there are more users that need to be connected, if you will, to the products of our space platforms.

We need to respond to urgent needs faster. There are urgent needs out there from the combatant commanders. Usually they're involving something in the surveillance and reconnaissance, the ISR domain where combatant commanders normally say if I had one more thing I want more ISR, I want more communications. Those are two issues that we need to take a hard look at in terms of more responsive space capability and how we might help the combatant commanders scratch some of their needs there.

We need to reduce develop and deployment time and cost. I hate to use the word enabler, because sometimes that's used to describe the space business as an enabler of something else, and that makes me uncomfortable describing it that way, but certainly reducing development and deployment time and cost becomes an enabler to responsive activities.

We also need a way to capitalize on emerging or innovative capabilities. We can envision a construct that allows space capabilities to respond to new or emergent warfighting needs in minutes with existing assets, in days for on-call assets, and in months for new or modified capabilities. Now these will not be the same kind of capabilities and we understand and accept that, that we would have if we were talking about some of our larger program activities and some of our activities that do take longer to go from concept to deployment and employment. We understand that. We're not talking about the same kind of platforms here.

Generally speaking, we're talking about smaller platforms from lower cost launch vehicles that could serve some needs here where we're having difficulty serving those needs with the other programs. It is not big space bad, little space good which is the way this is sometimes characterized. That is not what we are interested in in Omaha. We see this, in fact, as complementary to existing programs. We see this as a way to enable new strategic approaches and new architectures, which is really what this is all about. We need to take a look at how architecturally, from a system standpoint, we can solve some of our tough problems that the warfighters have, and this we think, if you want to define an end of responsiveness as meaning smaller platforms that have fewer missions, maybe a singular mission, that don't last as long that can be launched quickly, that can be launched at lower cost, then if you want to call that ORS, we're happy to call it ORS. That's fine. But it fits in the context of the broader attempt that we have here to be responsive.

If we had such a capability we think it would allow us to look at some of our problems differently too. Maybe this puts a different light on such things as survivability and endurance. Maybe we'd look differently at how we could reconstitute loss capabilities. Maybe we'd look differently at how we could augment existing capabilities or fill unanticipated gaps or exploit new technical or operational innovations or respond to unforeseen or episodic events. Another tool, if you will, in the warfighters' space quiver of tools that would allow us to do some things better.

Ultimately we see a more responsive approach in enhancing deterrence, and in fact improving the industrial base. In fact what I've just described for you is essentially our concept for what has become known as operationally responsive space.

As I said at the beginning, no matter where you go, there you are. I think all of you should take great pride in where we are today, but as always, there's more we have to do. I can guarantee you that those of us that work in Omaha and those of us in the space part of the United States Strategic Command look forward to trying to work with you to get there to do it.

Thanks again for inviting me. I certainly appreciate being part of the forum here this morning. Unfortunately, later today it's going to be time to go back to the land of gray skies.

Thank you very much.


Moderator: Thanks very much, General Kehler. We've got a couple of questions.

China recently test fired a directed energy weapon system at one of our satellites. Besides developing more robust systems, should there also be a strategy to deny other countries' use of space?

General Kehler: First of all, I'm not going to comment on any particular activities from any country. I would tell you, as I said in my prepared remarks, that we are watching very carefully, and we are watching activities from a lot of countries in terms of developing their own space capabilities or their use of existing space capabilities, and in both of those cases we need to be prudent. We need to be prudent in terms of our observation of what they're doing. We need to be prudent in terms of our response to what they're doing.

We have been directed for a number of years to watch carefully, adjust accordingly, and if directed, to be prepared to deny space capabilities to potential adversaries.

Moderator: The Chief and Secretary, you touched on this a little bit earlier I think, recently said that space based command and control and communication systems are the Air Force's third highest priority, modernization priority. What specific capabilities do you think we should focus on the most?

General Kehler: Here's the interesting part about being in the shoes of a combatant command. The combatant command and the uniqueness of STRATCOM's role in this. The combatant command has a responsibility for ensuring that those capabilities that we have today and rely on today are maintained. So when we look at Air Force Space Command, for example, as a force provider, there isn't anything that we are doing today in the space world that we are going to tell them stop doing. So what remains very important to us, clearly, are those communications assets that we have today to include our capabilities to command and control the nuclear forces, which means we've got some protected assets and other things that we've got to ensure. Missile warning, our capabilities to do surveillance from space. So as we tick through the existing things, GPS is such a fundamental piece of what we do from space today that we can't look at any one of those and say do less.

What we are interested in, though, is working with the force provider to try to shape how these new capabilities are unfolding or how additional improvements are made as we go forward.

We have been pretty comfortable with the plans that are laid out by the force provider. I think if my boss was standing here today he tends to say go faster, but we understand there are some practical limitations here regarding budgets and other things and some tradeoffs that are going to have to be made.

So that's the long answer. The short answer is there really isn't anything that's going on there today that we would say we would be comfortable doing less of. We've put an enormous demand on the force provider in that regard. We understand that. At the same time the force provider is recapitalizing, in this case the Air Force is recapitalizing. The Air Force still has got 8.5 percent of the space assets, the bulk of the space budget in the Department of Defense, the bulk of the people that do this. So we've placed a huge burden on the warfighter from a combatant command. Continue to do the things that we're doing, certainly. Command and control is such a fundamental, especially, my boss' number one issue is making sure that Strategic Command is moving to become a netcentric command. The space backbone that is part of that is enormously important to us.

That's a little bit of a ramble. There is no precise, this is number one, this is number two, this is number three. As we look at the space portfolio, there really isn't anything – choosing one of the children in the space portfolio [inaudible].

Moderator:  As an implementer of space operations policy, are you expecting any near term resolution in the debate on weapons in space?

General Kehler: We don't see that there's – I wouldn't characterize it as a debate. I would go back to what we are doing and that is we are watching very carefully. Where we have to go in the future remains to be seen. As I said in my remarks, it's unfortunate to think that this medium or this domain would become contested. But what we know is that certainly the capabilities that are in that domain, whether the domain itself is contested, the capabilities in that domain are being contested today. The GPS jamming is a fact of life. You could say that's a space domain threat or you could say that's a terrestrial threat, but we're not going to make that distinction. Space capabilities are potentially, are in fact and are potentially being challenged. That's where our focus is, is to make sure that we have put in place the appropriate protective measures that we need to guarantee that those capabilities are available when the warfighters need them.

Moderator:  General Cartwright was recently quoted as saying he wanted to establish closer ties with both Russia and China to avoid any future misunderstanding. One way is offer exchanges. In what areas could these exchanges be conducted? How transparent can they be without compromising security?

General Kehler: That's a good question. We have had longstanding relationships with the Russians that grew out of many years of negotiation and confidence building measures and so when it comes to the Russians we have both as a legacy of the Cold War and then as a result of the end of the Cold War, a number of routine forums for reaching [inaudible] with our Russian counterparts, where we share launch information with them, where we are prepared to look at and to interact with them over the Moscow/Washington Hotline that was put in place during the Cold War and remains today. So we are working our way through.

As we work our relationship with China, what characteristics would that relationship have as well? How do we make better what we had in place with the Russians over the years, and then how do we put in place the appropriate sorts of relationships with China?

The exact nature of what that looks like remains to be seen. At this point we are trying to open the dialogue in the lane that we have as a combatant commander which is with our military counterparts. Those dialogues are ongoing, of course with Russia, have been for a number of years, and we hope to try to open those kinds of dialogues with the Chinese. Well see what nature that truly takes.

Moderator: Sir, thank you very much for your great overview of not only STRATCOM but where we're going overall with all of our components using the capabilities and the support we get from the Space Command.

Thanks again.