Going Boldly-Where?: Aerospace Integration, the Space Commission, and the Air Force's Vision for Space

By Hays, Peter; Mueller, Karl | Aerospace Power Journal, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Going Boldly-Where?: Aerospace Integration, the Space Commission, and the Air Force's Vision for Space


Hays, Peter, Mueller, Karl, Aerospace Power Journal


Editorial Abstract: Aerospace Power Journal has regularly showcased discourse over the functional and organizational relationship between air and space. The future of air and space integration or separation is the subject of the congressionally mandated Space Commission, whose final report was released in January 2001. Dr. Mueller and Colonel Hays observe inconsistencies in the Air Force's approach to aerospace integration that may accommodate that service's bureaucracy but be perceived as "poor stewardship" of space.

AS WITH MOST other new technologies and frontiers, our perceptions of outer space and space technology have been fundamentally shaped by competition and warfare. World War II was the rationale for Nazi Germany's equivalent of the "Manhattan Project," led by Wernher von Braun, which first brushed the edge of space in 1942 with the revolutionary V-2 (A-4) ballistic missile.1 Likewise, the superpower competition during the cold war was the most influential factor in shaping both the Soviets' opening of the space age with the launch of Sputnik Ion 4 October 1957 and the eventual American response of initiating a race to the Moon.2 From the beginning, the interrelationships between space and national security have been complex and controversial. Today-due to the end of the cold war, the absence of competition from military peers (at least for the near term), space's role in enabling the information revolution, and the blurring of lines between traditional space sectors caused by the growth of commercial space activities-space issues are more complex, multidimensional, and controversial than ever. One of the most significant implications of these developments is that it is no longer clear that the relationship between space and national security is, or should be, shaped primarily by international military competition. What, then, is the relationship between space and national security? What should guide our vision for space, and how should we organize to implement it?

Due to its sweeping charter and powerful members, the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization was the most important, and potentially influential, group ever formed to examine these broad issues.3 The Space Commission was the brainchild of Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.); it was established by the fiscal year 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, first met on 11 July 2000, and delivered on schedule its final report to Congress and the secretary of defense in January 2001. The Air Force, as the largest military player in space, is clearly the organization that the Space Commission studied most carefully.4 Moreover, because Senator Smith and several members of the commission have repeatedly criticized the Air Force's overall stewardship of space to date, it is no secret that the commission was established, in large part, to challenge the status quo in military space. Indeed, the very creation of the commission was an implicit critique of the Air Force's vision for space.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has recently refocused on the concept of aerospace-a concept that defines air and space as a seamless operational medium and that strongly implies two things: the Air Force should be the lead service in this operational medium, and it should seek to control and apply force from this medium. The Air Force's vision statement of June 2000, Global Vigilance, Reach & Power: American Air Force Vision 2020, emphasizes aerospace integration (AI) or the blending of air and space capabilities and personnel to advance aerospace power, regardless of where the platforms are located or which ones are chosen.5 The Space Commission and the start of a new presidential administration create an excellent opportunity to reexamine the utility of the aerospace concept and Al in providing a vision for the Air Force's future in space.

This article reviews the evolution of arguments about the relationship between space and national security and examines what space means for the future of the Air Force.

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Going Boldly-Where?: Aerospace Integration, the Space Commission, and the Air Force's Vision for Space
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