“Our strategic competitors are actively threatening our space capabilities and we must be ready.”
[email protected], April 4, 2017
Space superiority, with little to no certainty, is a war-fighting domain–not because we want it to be but because our enemies are seeking to conquer, not come together.
Before the 1967 Outer Space Treaty banned the placement of weapons of mass destruction in low-Earth orbit (LEO), the U.S. was testing nuclear weapons in space, with the Soviet Union working on the kinks in their self-detonating spacecraft targeted at American spy satellites. Although no treaty on the use of space weaponry by spacefaring nations currently exists, Russia and China have proposed a treaty to ban space weapons–rejected only by the U.S.
The kind of confidence that the U.S. Air Force Space Command wants to cast out into the atmosphere–best emulated by a man like vice commander and Maj. Gen. David D. Thompson–is the kind of space that we as a nation should want to occupy.
Like others in the U.S. military space sector, it is Thompson’s job to ensure that the country is prepared for attack, or anything detrimental to matters of national security. It is his belief, however, that the military can no longer afford to have programs that are “years behind schedule and billions over budget.”
“To be frank, the government approach, and our approach to space operations and our relationships with the industrial sector–while they’re strong–have to be relooked at, renewed, refigured and refreshed,” commented Thompson at a meeting of the Aerospace Industries Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce in June.
The air (or lack thereof) needs to be cleared, as the shifting and changing threat environment in space is forcing the Air Force and Department of Defense to make some serious changes in their priorities. Thompson agrees, for the most part, that there needs to be a shift.
“For years we have been focused on keeping the trains running on time. Our job now is to understand the threat environment and be able to react to it,” Thompson said in his talk at SATELLITE 2017. “We need to focus on what we are truly commissioned and designed to do–fight [adversaries] in a contested environment.”
To increase operational resiliency where the satellites float free, it is the General’s recommendation that the military increase their use of COMSATCOM services, that solutions to current problems might be found in that shared consortium between commercial and industry partners. Many value his opinion–is this evidence of a time to change?
“A diversity of options that are space based will also make for more resilient architecture…increasing the distribution of [systems] in the SATCOM world and the diversity across capabilities–both military and commercial–will surely help us increase the resiliency of those systems.”
Thompson is literally and figuratively breaking barriers in the aerospace and aeronautical defense industry, remarking to members of the media after the successful launch of the WGS-9 spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in March:
“Right here in 1950, the United States started breaking the barrier of space…ever since then, the Air Force, our nation and [later] our partners at NASA have been breaking barriers and advancing the frontier of space. That is the spirit of innovation that is the United States Air Force Space Command.”
Maj. Gen. David D. Thompson assists in organizing, training, equipping and maintaining mission-ready space and cyberspace forces and providing missile warning, positioning, navigation and timing, communications and cyber capabilities for North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Strategic Command and other functional commands. He is also an Olmsted Scholar, graduate of the Senior Acquisition Course and Level III-certified Program Manager and was commissioned in 1985 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Maj. Gen. Thompson will be addressing the Potomac Officer’s Club as a keynote speaker at the 2017 Space: Innovations, Programs, and Policies Summit to be held Oct. 18, 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner in McLean, VA.