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Space leaders discuss operating in resource-constrained environments

by Master Sgt. Kimberley Harrison
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

10/27/2010 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- Air Force Space Command leaders along with civilian officials who have made a significant contribution to America's military space program came together here Oct. 21 to discuss the future and the lessons learned of operating in a resource constrained environment.

The members shared first-hand insight into the challenges they faced in leading space acquisition programs and how they adjusted in the competitive, resource-constrained environment of their tenures.

The discussion panel members consisted of Peter Teets, the former undersecretary of the Air Force and the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, Keith R. Hall, the senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, and retired Maj. Gen. Neil Beer, the first AFSPC deputy chief of staff in 1982.

"We are part of a great command; we deliver capabilities essential to the joint and coalition warfighter and we've done well this year," said Maj. Gen. Michael Basla, the Air Force Space Command vice commander, at the start of the discussion. "But as we look forward, we recognize the environment will be more resource-constrained. We are fortunate to have with us today the leaders on this panel. They are visionaries who helped set the course and influenced where we are today. These leaders have insights and lessons learned for the future and we should seek out their experience as we determine the best ways forward in a challenging environment."

Throughout the discussion, the hot topic was acquisition and all three panel members were in agreement with improvements they believe would make for a smoother process ... one person overseeing national security space responsibility.

"I think it's important to have someone who can oversee all of 'national security space,'" Mr. Teets said. "One of the fundamental problems we have with acquisition is that we don't allow the program director to have adequate program reserve. I believe the nation is better served if there is a single person who has all of national security space responsibility."

"The acquisition of space systems should be consolidated under one leader...that's what it was at one time," Mr. Hall agreed.

Retired Maj. Gen. Neil Beer had a more humorous, but truthful, retort regarding the future acquisition environment.

"Future resource constraints? I'd say that's business as usual unless someone has made a breakthrough in streamlining acquisition," he said.

In the end, the panel members felt that adequate resources are key for the future of space operations.

"I worry in this constrained environment we have, plus with the well-known schedule delays and cost-overruns that we've had with major national security space programs, I worry that we're going to take our eye off the leading edge," Mr. Teets said. "In this era of resource diminishment, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball."

Panel members also discussed the risky space development programs the U.S. military must have if it wants to maintain leadership in high technology, development and acquisition and fielding, and how imperative it is to allow the program manager have significant program reserve.

"If we want to lead the world in new technology development and bring on eye-wateringly good space systems to maintain our advantage in space ... if we want to do that, we have to be willing to somehow allow the program manager to have significant reserve. Bringing rapid resources to risky problems that are on leading edge developments is a key to successful acquisition," Mr. Teets said.

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