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Estes Advocates Space Partnerships

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 20, 1998 – U.S. military space programs must converge with civil, commercial and allied space efforts, DoD's top space commander said here recently.

Air Force Gen. Howell M. Estes III, commander in chief of U.S. Space Command, spoke at the National Space Symposium to more than 1,000 representatives of governments, organizations and companies that deal with space. Partnerships with civil and commercial space agencies, he said, will enable DoD to maintain its space programs more efficiently and affordably.

Space is becoming increasingly vital to America's economic and military strength, he said, and global partnerships are at the core of his command's long-range plan. Estes said the benefits of such partnerships include sharing technology garnered from large military investments in space research and development, merging military investments in worldwide space infrastructures, and understanding military space trends and future requirements.

"A significant inducement to partnering is the financial incentive of the work itself," Estes said. Partners, he said, gain access to far more resources than they could afford individually. Sharing resources also will help nations and military organizations adjust to the Information Age. Transition to information-based weapon systems, strategies and doctrines "is and will continue to be a traumatic transition for a host of reasons, not the least of which is cost," Estes said.

The success the military is having at developing new weapon systems comes at the cost of a significantly reduced force structure, the general said. Such cuts will be justified, he said, if investments in space-based information technology "provide such dramatic increases in battle management; command, control, computers and communications; and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, so as to render the smaller force structure far more effective than the larger force structure of the past."

But even though DoD is cutting force structure, it hasn't come up with the funds necessary to invest in new technologies to offset the decreased force, Estes said. "There is a large and growing possibility that these gains will not be realized unless more funding is made available to the military. Therefore, the importance of military space partnerships becomes even greater.

"The smaller military force of the future will require information systems -- many of them space-based -- which do not yet exist and are not yet funded," Estes said. "One of the few avenues the military has to meet these Information Age requirements and make the most efficient use of every single dollar spent is through partnerships. The military and its partners can leverage each other's investments in infrastructure, research and development."

A common conceptual foundation is required to make these partnerships work, the general said. He outlined four keys for successful partnering:

  • Ensuring a single operational focal point, presenting one voice to the world for U.S. military space;
  • Distinguishing between core and noncore military space activities;
  • Developing an integrated systems approach to space issues; and
  • Shaping the space environment.

Estes said the first concept is key to ensuring a streamlined decision-making process across institutional boundaries. "A strong military focal point could help break the deadlock on strategic issues," Estes said. The general announced that he has, in fact, been assigned the bulk of space-related responsibilities of regional commanders in chief.

"CinCSpace has been designated as the single focal point for military space," Estes said. "That's a huge change in the way we've done business in the past."

Concerning core and noncore capabilities, Estes said the former have to do with operating military space forces during crises and war. They aren't likely candidates for partnering, he said. On the other hand, many noncore capabilities, such as satellite communications and launch services, are good candidates for outsourcing and privatization, the general said.

Space Command's principal objective in filling the lead military space role and identifying partnering candidates is to develop an integrated systems approach, he said. Such an approach would result in huge savings, and his command can help partners consolidate missions from an integrated systems perspective, he said.

Systems integration is partially what's happening in the future imagery architecture and military satellite communications, Estes said. "U.S. Space Command is playing a leading role in these efforts to ensure the needs of the war fighters and our nation at large are being met."

To make all these plans work, Estes said, DoD and its partners must shape the space environment. This requires neutral defenses for all space-faring nations for their mutual benefit, he said. "This mutual dependence should deter aggression and foster [positive] relationships. However, based on historical precedence, development of enforcement policies and the means of ensuring enforcement may become necessary."

Like air and sea power of the past, increasing dependency on peaceful access to space may require military policing, Estes said. "Regardless, the more nations cooperate in peaceful sharing of space resources, the less chance the world will ever need the means of enforcing the use of space. [But] it is likely in the future that the U.S. Space Command will need to have options to respond to anyone attempting to deny us access to space."

Estes concluded his talk by comparing partnerships in space to marriage. "A great partnership is only the beginning," he said. "A relationship will take a lot of work."

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