Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, shown here as a two-star, is deputy chief of space operations, cyber and nuclear, effectively the Space Force’s chief operations officer. Eric Dietrich/USAF
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Q&A: Space Ops 101

Oct. 1, 2020

Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, Space Force Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear, speaks with Rachel S. Cohen about Space Force.

Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, USSF Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear, is the first chief operations officer of the new U.S. Space Force. He spoke with Air Force Magazine Senior Editor Rachel S. Cohen about Space Force planning. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What does your job entail?

A: That portfolio includes traditional space operations, cyber operations, and our nuclear operations, … our role in providing capabilities that add to our strategic deterrence. … What we’ve decided to do is designate that position a little bit like the corporate C-suite. So I’m the chief operations officer, and that’s another one of those innovative twists that we’re trying to bring to the military mindset. … That name change is a reminder to me to not just fall into into old military staff habits, if you will, but to look through a different lens and see this as an integrated approach to operations.

Q: What role do cyber and nuclear operations play in your job?

A: Space operations cannot happen without cyber, … the networks, data transport, data management, the electromagnetic spectrum, the ability to link to satellites 23,000 miles out in geosynchronous orbit and return mission data in real time. … We are tightly integrating that by being under that chief operations officer.

One of the most valuable contributions to our nation for strategic deterrence is our missile-warning capability provided by space, not to mention the ground assets that also do the missile warning role. …  What adversary would launch a missile at us, knowing that we will see it in plenty of time to respond? They have to make the calculus of, what city are we willing to trade to launch an ICBM at the United States? … The power of being able to see and attribute any kind of attack like that truly creates a strategic deterrent effect. 

Q: What are some of your top priorities and action items right now?

A: [My whiteboard] says “start adding value.” This is an imperative for us in the Space Force. … We have to assess what are the most critical shortfalls, what are the best opportunities to enhance our position, and how do we focus those resources where things that matter require those resources? That’s at the top of my list. Right behind that is, we’ve got to go faster. The security environment that we’ve been put into, both in the space domain and, really, across the globe—we’ve got to play catch up a little bit. The other sub-bullet on my “start adding value” [list] is to remove barriers that are slowing us down. There’s a number of those. Some of them are just bureaucratic. Some of them are lack of resourcing and focus. Some of them are training- and readiness-related. I’m trying to first assess and do some root cause analysis of what those key barriers are, and then figure out mitigation strategies and start ticking them off.

Q: Are there any reports you have due soon?

A: We have an opportunity to now, as a service,  look at how we describe and assess our readiness level. … A lot of times, readiness is described as preparing to deploy or preparing to accomplish your mission at some point in the future, and so you do training, you perform maintenance activities, all to establish a level of readiness so that if called upon, you can do your mission at a high level. But, if you think about it, our space assets are largely doing their wartime mission on a day-to-day basis, and so we have to perpetually be ready. … For us, determining exactly how we assess, describe, and report our readiness levels, so that it has meaning to us as a Space Force is one of those things at the top of my list.

Q: How are you focusing resources differently as part of the fiscal 2022 budget request?

A: How do we need to posture ourselves to protect U.S. interests in space? How do we make sure that we deter any activities or aggression in, from, and to space? And then, how do we continue to provide that warfighting capability that the joint force has come to just assume is there? … That’s really what the resourcing team has focused on. 

My job is also to identify where I’m struggling in my operations, so that they have a good set of requirements moving forward. I have not really looked at it yet in enough detail to answer the question in that regard. That’s a part of that readiness and assessment that we’re trying to get after early on.

Q: What role did space play in your time as deputy commander of Air Forces Central Command?

A: [At AFCENT, my learning opportunity was,] how much data can I get my hands on? How fast can I make sense of it, and how tight can I make my decision loop so that I can always provide guidance, provide direction to the forces, so that they can be in front of an adversary? This is the nature of competition. It’s not nice, discrete battles anymore. It’s about, they’re trying to do something to achieve a strategic advantage, and we’re trying to prevent them from achieving that strategic advantage. … The best way to mitigate an adversary from getting a strategic advantage is to rapidly see what they’re trying to do, and then frustrate those efforts with our own activities. … It’s really not about space or air independently, as much as it is about how we provide all that capability in an integrated, synchronized, and operationally fast way.

Q: Can you give an example of a time when space was critical in Middle East operations?

A: The Russians have done some things on orbit that have been very aggressive in the past. We would have maybe collected [intelligence] on those and kept those in super dark, secret channels and never really attributed what we knew about it. We recognize that there [are] capabilities that our adversaries have, that the other powers have, and our ability to see it and let them know that we see it, I believe has a deterrent effect. I saw the same thing overseas. … I can’t tell you exactly what systems I’m talking about, but space-based capabilities, collecting on the maneuver of our adversaries, allowed us to then position forces that mitigated what they were trying to do, frustrating them. They thought they could move down a road unimpeded, and suddenly we’re there. Why are we in their way? Well, because we knew what they were doing. We didn’t have access to those areas via air or via ground-based sensors. The only way to see those movements is that persistence that we provide to those conflicted areas via space.

Q: What will Space Force deployments look like in the future?

A: I’m not sure it’s going to change too dramatically. Right now, with our current capabilities, it’s just one of our mission sets, or just a small handful of our missions that we actually need to go overseas to perform. The vast majority of the capabilities, we can do from our garrison locations. … Because the numbers are so small, we don’t have to go through a radical shift in how we deploy. We still leverage the Department of the Air Force capabilities for assigning and determining what are the requirements, and then we deploy people as necessary, if they have to go to a forward location to accomplish their mission. … As our capabilities grow over time, we might need a new force-presentation model.

Q: How are you planning on bringing people from different specialties together in new ways?

A: When I started talking about space operations, cyber operations, nuclear operations, the tradition would be, I establish an S3, an S6, and an S10, and I copy the Air Force and the Army and those models where you have these stovepipes of subject-matter experts that attend to things in that realm. I’m trying to break that up. … Those subject-matter experts are going to be mixed across divisions in a unique way.

The three buckets that I’ve been putting people in, very colloquially, I describe as the “what,” the “so what,” and the “what next?” … The “what” bin, they’re the ones that are collecting all the information. What’s going on in the world? What are the conditions that are affecting us? What’s the environment look like? What missions are going on? What are the people doing? What’s the adversary doing? … So we have situational awareness about all of the activities that affect the Space Force and its mission. Then the “so what” is making meaning out of that. What are the impacts? If the Russians are conducting this exercise, what does it mean for the Space Force? What does it mean for the joint force? If there’s an environmental condition, whether it’s a hurricane or whether it’s space weather that’s affecting us, how is it affecting us? … The “what next” team [are] the ones developing courses of action, looking at mitigation strategies, determining through crisis action planning and better force management propositions—how can we both address the shortfalls that we’re seeing and leverage opportunities to do better? I’m not looking at the badges they’re wearing or what job they had before they came to the staff. I’m taking all of that expertise and dividing them along those three lines.

Q: You developed the initial multi-domain command and control concept for the Air Force. What do you think of the Pentagon’s work on joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) so far?

A: I’m such a proud father. … They’ve taken all of that very small contribution that we made, basically creating that vocabulary, and they’re running with it. There’s tangible products that are being produced. There’s prototypes that really get after the principles that we laid out. … The root cause of any of our challenges came back to how we managed our data. We were very loud about that, I thought, and I see that thread continuing through the JADC2 effect—cloud-based, accessible data; universal contribution to a library of data that then technology and artificial intelligence can pull from to help decision-makers make better decisions faster, and then use technology to link to the shooters on a real-time basis. … Space is right there, because we are contributors of the data, we are users and consumers of the data. We make critical decisions at orbital-velocity speed. So we have to be very loud and vocal proponents and customers of the JADC2 products.

Q: What needs to be done to best support U.S. Space Command and the other combatant commands?

A: We have the unique position of being a service focused on a domain that can work tightly with a combatant commander that’s focused on the domain, and I’m not sure that relationship exists anywhere else in the department. … We are going to be in close formation linked tightly with [U.S. Space Command boss Gen. James H. Dickinson] and his entire staff. I’m going to talk to the [Joint Staff operations director] next week. I’m going to talk to him every day, probably, to make sure that there’s this nice yin and yang, if you will. What you need is what we’re working on. The training your team needs is the training I’m providing. My assessment is going to be based on his feedback on what he’s trying to accomplish. This is a great hand-in-glove kind of a relationship that we have an opportunity to take advantage of, and we’re not going to miss that opportunity.