Air Force aims at space system skills

The Air Force is working on a pair of strategies to ensure that the Defense Department has the right people working on space systems in the future.

DOD's point person for national security space activities, Peter Teets, said that Gen. Lance Lord, commander of Air Force Space Command, was putting the "finishing touches" on a space professional strategy.

Testifying March 12 before the Senate Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Lord said his staff has been refining the strategy for some time and this year began "the harder task of implementing the initiatives identified in the strategy — initiatives that center on the force's education, training and experience needs."

"Given the importance and complexity of professional development, we recognize this is a long-term commitment but it's the right thing to do — for our mission and for our country," Lord said. "We have the best space and missile operators and acquirers in the world, and we will continue to improve on that standard of excellence."

In addition to that strategy, Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, said the Air Force has already begun offering a critical skills retention bonus for scientists and engineers. He also said that the Naval Postgraduate School and the Air Force Institute of Technology are building a joint program "to allow space professionals to receive a graduate education spanning a broad spectrum of space activities."

But Air Force officials realize the service is not working alone in space, and Teets said he is encouraging the other military services and agencies to contribute in building the initial "space cadre."

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), the subcommittee's chairman, asked what was being done to coordinate DOD's space and science technology efforts. Teets replied that he is in the process of setting up a coordinating committee focused on bridging the stovepipes that exist among the different services' organizations and initiatives. He added that the National Security Space Integration office would be leading that effort, and to maximize DOD space investments, it would be given the necessary resources to identify duplication.

In addition, Navy Adm. James Ellis Jr., commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said he is involved with all the military services' space components and is attempting to bring a "joint flavor" to those operations. Strategic Command merged with U.S. Space Command last year and more recently inherited oversight of DOD's information operations, global command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, missile defense and global strike capabilities.

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