At an annual gathering of civil, military and industry professionals from across the globe, Under Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning emphasized Air Force contributions through space and cyberspace.
Fanning was the featured keynote speaker during the 30th Space Symposium dinner May 20 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The under secretary said Air Force missions are not only global but complex – and operate in multiple places and domains, like space and cyberspace, that people donít necessarily know about or see.
We are not just a warfighting service, explained Fanning, who is the focal point on the Air Force staff for space operations, policy and acquisition. We are also an intelligence service ñ (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), cyber and space together. We are one-stop shopping for the president. We can tell him whatís going on anywhere in the world ñ and if he wants us to ñ we can do something about it, anywhere in the world, anytime.
The under secretary said the Air Force has provided this type of support, not just to the president, but to combatant commanders for decades.
Space power has also been a key element of warfighting for more than 30 years, providing a unique vantage to observe activity around the globe, relay terrestrial communications and provide precision position information, Fanning said.
However, space is not just a one-nation show, Fanning said, and that a global domain requires a global team.
He mentioned multiple international agreements and said the Air Force has recently furthered defense cooperation by establishing a partnership with Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom on combined space operations.
Combined space operations allow better collaboration on space activities that we agree are most critical, such as identifying objects in orbit and understanding what they’re doing, avoiding satellite collisions and contributing towards a safer, more secure space environment, Fanning said.
He also said the Air Force is working hard to reduce spending while ensuring delivery of necessary space capabilities to the warfighter. For example, the Air Force found significant savings in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program with long-term contracts and is supporting new entrants for certification.
While launch costs are a concern, Fanning said he also wants to make sure the Air Force has reasonable and resilient satellite programs.
A larger constellation of smaller satellites might be more affordable for some missions, so that even if one satellite fails, there will be others that can pick up the slack, Fanning said. That is the benefit of creating a resilient architecture.
Fanning explained the reason for a resilient architecture relies not only on the fact that debris exists in space that can potentially damage or eliminate a satellite, but also because space is no longer considered a sanctuary.
We cannot assume that our deployed systems will either be inaccessible or unnoticed, and thus undisturbed, Fanning said. Our potential adversaries are well aware of the distinct advantages that our space systems provide us, and they are developing counter-space capabilities in pursuit of asymmetric goals.
Fanning also acknowledged the work of both government and industry professionals in developing space capabilities into the ubiquitous assets they are today and he emphasized working within current budget constraints.
Thank you for the work you have done to advance our capabilities in space, Fanning said. I challenge you to continue to help ensure we maintain a leading edge in space now and 30 years from now, particularly in this challenging political and fiscal environment.