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Remarks by Stephen L. Kitay, DASD for Space Policy, at the Mitchell Institute Space Power Series (as prepared for delivery)

Good morning. Thank you to the Mitchell Institute and Kath Ryan for inviting me to speak here again.  I appreciate you having me back, and I look forward to another great discussion.  

When I last addressed this audience it was May 2018. I spoke then about how much national attention space was getting, and I called it an exciting and pivotal time.  That was just the start … 

Just one month after I spoke here, in June 2018 the President directed the Pentagon to begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.  And here we gather, a year and a half later … we now have a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the armed force authorized and appropriated in law.  Many people had a hand in realizing that vision.  Many of YOU had a hand in realizing that vision. I’d say this accomplishment deserves a big round of applause.  

I’ve had the distinct honor and great opportunity to be part of the team to work on this effort to create a Space Force for many years now, serving roles in both the legislative and executive branches.  

And this journey has really taught me 2 things.  The first is the power of an idea.  This is an idea that is rooted in ensuring our nation is postured to win in an era of great power competition. It is also an idea that is rooted in ensuring the members of the other five branches of our Armed Forces - our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen - have what they need to do their missions to protect us.   It is an idea that is rooted in assuring our economy and our way of life.  Ultimately, this is what the Space Force is about.  The Space Force will ensure our nation has the trained and ready military members and capabilities to deliver the spacepower necessary to meet current threats and outpace future ones.   

The second thing I learned is the power of a team to take an idea from words into reality.  This is due to the visionary leadership of the President and the Vice President; the terrific bi-partisan work in Congress over a number of years on this topic; the leadership of the Secretary of Defense; and the very hard work and selfless dedication of many men and women (both civilian and military) in the Pentagon, on both sides of the Potomac, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and on both sides of Capitol Hill.  And let me add, that it is also due to the important work of independent experts in think tanks and organizations like this group today, as well as to members of a free press who have worked to inform the public of the vital mission our military conducts in space. 

I learned that we can achieve great things together, and I’m very grateful for the entire team who made the Space Force a reality.

SO MUCH FOR THE EASY PART.  Now the REALLY HARD work begins.  I believe, we are in the midst of the most significant transformation in the history of the U.S. national security space program.  Now we must deliver on the opportunities this transformation makes possible.

Why do I say that – “the most significant transformation in the history of the US national security space program?”  Look at the past year – we have created a new Defense Agency - the Space Development Agency charged with rapidly accelerating the delivery of new capabilities to the warfighter.  We have created a new Combatant Command – the U.S. Space Command – a joint warfighting command focused on deterrence and operations to, in, and from space. And now the U.S. Space Force, the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to organize train and equip our space professionals.

I know that some people might say form should follow function and we have this backwards.  But I would counter that these new forms are precisely about enabling the functions we need.  So, at the end of the day, this is not fundamentally about organizations as the end objective in and of themselves.  Rather – the organizations are catalysts and structures we are putting in place precisely because we need them to achieve strategic objectives for our nation.

Let me use this an opportunity to pivot to strategy.

Our evolving Defense Space Strategy is focused on implementing the Department’s National Defense Strategy which ensures our military is postured for long-term, strategic competition.  It also builds upon the President’s 2018 National Strategy for Space, which provides a whole of government approach for US leadership in the critical domain of space.  

I’m not going to brief the details of the Defense Space Strategy because it is still in development and coordination.  But I would like to take some time to talk about some of the elements we are working on.

Today we are called upon to: maintain superiority in space, provide space support, and ensure stability throughout space.  I will talk about what we mean by each of these.

First, Maintain Superiority in Space: For decades, we have supported the warfighter from space, providing services vital to forward presence, power projection, and combat.  

We have also supported national leadership in making some of the most sensitive and consequential decisions imaginable.  Now here’s what is changing - actions in space may determine the outcome of future conflicts.  The ability of our potential adversaries to deny space capabilities may prove decisive, and we must therefore be able to provide for freedom of operations in space.  That includes being able to defend U.S., and as directed, allied, partner, and commercial assets, to secure the domain.  This is a new mission area that is getting tremendous priority in the Department. 

Next, Provide Support from Space:  As you have heard said many times, our transformation is not space for space’s sake.  Instead, our actions in space tie to life here on earth – to enable national leadership and the joint warfighter, and to ensure that the United States is able to leverage space to generate, project, and employ power on a global scale, and across the spectrum of conflict.  That mission of providing support from space is now more important than ever.

Lastly, Ensure Stability throughout Space:  The US does not seek conflict in space any more than we seek conflict on earth.  But just as on earth, that means we must be prepared for the possibility of conflict in space in order to deter it.  To ensure stability, we must maintain a persistent presence, and provide for safe transit in, to, and through space.  

The United States must also lead the way on being good stewards of this domain, as we have the most to lose from instability in the domain and from degradation of the space environment.  

Well that’s all easy to say.  But I suspect you may be wondering what is DoD’s thinking about how we actually achieve superiority, support, and stability in space.

To that point, the next thing I’m going to say, to frame our thinking, is the most important item of all in my remarks today.  

I’ll share a quick story - on December 20th, the day that the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act, bringing the U.S. Space Force into existence, I had the opportunity to sit alongside Secretary Barrett and General Raymond in the Pentagon Press briefing room to brief the press corps.  Which, as an aside, I’d like to say that these are two amazing leaders who I believe are doing a tremendous job building the Space Force and implementing the President, SecDef’s and Congressional guidance.  

At this press briefing, I was asked a question that immediately stuck with me: what pitfalls do we need to avoid in the standing up of Space Force?  

I answered that we need to ensure we are educating the public on the role of space and the threats we are facing.  Informing the public is a critical component, as I noted earlier with the role of the press.  However, as I reflected on this question further I came to an additional realization.  

The pitfall we have to avoid is submitting to the bureaucratic inertia of the way we have always done things before.  This is our opportunity to think differently. In fact, this is not only our opportunity, it is our imperative to think differently.  

We have an incredible moment in history right now.  Space is a national priority. We have also progressed from seeing space as purely a support function to recognizing it as a warfighting domain in its own right. And we now how the authorization and appropriations to build out our new structures. 

So, how do we think differently – and ensure we are tied to the execution of the missions I just spoke about? 

First, we must embrace both originality and joint principles.  

Regarding originality - We have to recognize that space is as different from air, as air is from land, and land is from sea.  

Space is a unique domain – Kepler and Bernoulli have different laws of physics.  Thinking differently and boldly entails accepting risk to standout.  

Just as important as originality is, we must embrace joint principals. The Joint Force in all domains is facing potential threats that challenge our freedom of operation across the strategic environment, making the ability to provide advanced space capabilities to the Joint Force all the more important.  To respond effectively to these cross-domain and multi-domain challenges, we must extend our culture of joint integration.  To do this well, we must ensure the Space Force is not simply part of the Air Force rebranded, but rather is able to leverage the best of all services.  We have the opportunity to draw on the tactical responsiveness, the maneuver concepts, the doctrinal foundations, and the strategic excellence of all the services as we develop new approaches to the space domain.

To illustrate that point, I’d like to discuss Naval power briefly, as it has helped guide some of my thinking.   I believe there are strong analogies between space power and naval power.   Not all of the analogies are apt, but some of them are enlightening. 

Both sea and space act as indispensable sources and conduits of national power, prosperity, and prestige.  Sea power has long provided the United States with incomparable access to trade, communications, and cross-domain power projection.  

Sea power has also been an important component of American diplomacy.  This wide array of interests at sea creates a unique mission set for the Navy: not only does the Navy achieve domain superiority and provide vital support to air and land during conflict; the Navy must also preserve stability and access to Sea Lines of Communication during peace.

More and more, space reflects this reality.  The daily rhythm of life in this country, and across the globe, already depends in many ways on space-based capabilities.  This trend will only grow from here.  Increased investment, decreasing costs, and unprecedented demand have caused tremendous growth in the commercial space industry.  Industry is projected not just to match but double, even triple, the number of active satellites in the coming decade.  That is game changing in the space environment.  With this change, the U.S. national security space program must take on its own three-part mission: while in crisis, we must prepare to gain space superiority in order to provide critical space-based capabilities to terrestrial forces; in peace, we must maintain stability, security and access to key regions of space for both our way of warfare and way of life.  So the first way to think differently is embracing both originality and joint principles. 

In thinking differently, the second requirement is to empower.  This is our opportunity to build a new way of doing business from the ground up.  

Our space professionals may be a relatively small group of about 15,000 people within the Department of Defense – but I can tell you that their power is mighty.  This is an elite group of the brightest minds who are technologists, warfighters, strategists, and partners who underpin our national security, our 20 trillion dollar national economy, and billions of people’s lives every single day. As we setup our new organizations we have to ensure that we are not creating unnecessary layers of bureaucracy AND we have to ensure there is clear alignment of accountability and roles and responsibilities.  As we empower, we have to provide clear guidance and enterprise alignment, and prudent oversight to enable a culture of speed and innovation.  

The third way we have to think differently is that we have to partner.  I spoke earlier of the power of a team to achieve something significant like establishing the Space Force.  The same goes for our space posture.  And when I say partner, I mean with our interagency colleagues, with our international allies and partners, and with the private sector.  In my current position, I have the honor to lead our international space activities, and in just the past few weeks I’ve met with leaders from four close allies.  Next week, I’ll be in Ottawa with General Raymond, Dr. Scolese and my boss, Assistant Secretary Rapuano, for the Combined Space Operations Principals Board annual meeting where, along with six nations (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom), we will set our combined operational and strategic objectives for the year ahead.  At the end of the month, I will be in Tokyo for meetings with the government of Japan.  

The message from all of our allies and partners in these venues is clear and consistent – they recognize the importance of space, they are concerned by the growing threats in the domain, and they are ready to work together.  It’s fascinating, and opens up tremendous opportunities.  We recognize that in any domain we never fight alone, and space must be no different.  

So we’ve spoken about the largest transformation in national security space and elements we need to achieve in this transformation, and then some keys to success on how to think differently.

I’d like to close with another question I recently received that gave me pause, and is very appropriate for this Mitchell Institute group.  The question was:

Who will be our Billy Mitchell?  

My first answer is that fortunately no one has had to get court-martialed, at least not yet.

But my second answer is that there doesn’t have to be just one.  I interact daily and have already met great innovative and bold thinkers who have brought us the successes of this past year, and I hope we have many more successes to come.  At the end of the day, the changes I’ve discussed here—especially the ability to think differently—is all about the men and women who helped bring these organizations into existence, and those who will make up their ranks.  It is about people in institutions like this group today who provide a forum to cultivate new ideas and hold us accountable to sound strategic thinking.  We must capture the innovative spirit that allowed 2019 to be a historic year for U.S. space power—capture it in our doctrine, strategy, and training—in order to ensure the U.S. national security space enterprise is the forward-leaning and responsive force we need.

In fact, with the power of an idea, and the power of a team, and the power to think differently there is no stopping us.