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Leaders provide update, vector on Air Force space efforts at symposium

by Alicia Garges
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

11/25/2010 - LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AFNS) -- Senior Air Force leaders, servicemembers and industry partners gathered for the Air Force Association's annual Global Warfare Symposium Nov. 18 through 19 here.

This year's symposium focused on innovation, operating under financial constraints, building partnerships and managing space acquisition.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton kicked off the symposium as the first speaker Nov. 18, highlighting how the Air Force and its industry partners create and operate space systems.

Ms. Conaton said that while U.S. space systems are the envy of the world, "these capabilities are very expensive and have often been beset by schedule and cost overruns."

She said these facts require all Airmen engaged in space activities to ensure they do not rest on their laurels.

"Because Air Force leadership recognizes the need to continue to provide essential space capabilities -- as Gen. Bob Kehler, the Air Force Space Command commander, says, 'at the speed of need' -- we must continue to improve our acquisition processes," she said.

Toward this end, the under secretary said Air Force and Department of Defense officials reorganized its space governance structure, which many found confusing.

Air Force officials have since changed the way they approach space acquisition by consolidating all of the service's acquisition programs under one office, as well as through the creation of an Air Force Space Board, she said.

"We believe our new Air Force governance structure is more cohesive, integrated and streamlined and will enable the Air Force to carry out its space mission more effectively and efficiently," Ms. Conaton added.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley opened day two of the symposium on Nov. 19 with an address on the Air Force's many space accomplishments of the past year, including 73 national security space launches, and the importance of interagency coordination and communication.

"For DOD, and especially for the Air Force, a common thread throughout is an unprecedented need to coordinate and cooperate effectively -- first within DOD, and with what I refer to as the three 'I's': our interagency, industry and international partners," the secretary said.

To better coordinate these efforts, Secretary Donley said the Deputy Secretary of Defense not only revalidated the Air Force Secretary's role as the DOD's executive agent for space, but also approved the establishment of a DOD Space Council.

According to the secretary, recommendations from the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, Nuclear Posture Review and National Space Policy are also shaping the Air Force's space efforts. However, Secretary Donley said the Air Force is not starting from scratch.

"The letter of intent recently signed between the Air Force, NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office, based on long-standing relationships, commits us to closer coordination in ways that will help us share costs and address common challenges associated with the space industrial base," he said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz closed the symposium on Nov. 19, speaking about operational effectiveness in space.

"With our nation's broad-ranging dependence on space -- from civil, to commercial, to national security applications -- it would be fair to say that space, in some way, affects the lives of practically all Americans every day," the general said.

Space system capabilities have progressed from their originally stove-piped and limited scope to their presently integrated, networked and broad-reaching applications in only a few decades, General Schwartz said.

Because this increased capability means space systems will continue to be important to the nation, General Schwartz said it was important that Airmen continue to look for new and better ways to manage the Air Force's space programs.

"Beyond our formalized efficiencies programs, we will rely on innovative ideas that promise greater streamlining opportunities, both domestically and internationally," General Schwartz said. "This is exactly what we need -- innovation and greater efficiency -- as we contend with ongoing fiscal constraints."

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