Watch, Read: CSO Saltzman on ‘The State of the Space Force’

Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman delivered a keynote address on “The State of the Space Force,” detailing the young service’s progress and upcoming initiatives at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 11, 2023. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Gen. B. Chance Saltzman

Good morning, AFA. We’re all caffeinated up, ready to go, talk space for a bit? All right. I like it. Come on up closer. Thank you Secretary Kendall for your steadfast leadership, support of the Space Force, and most importantly, your laser focus on the threat, China, China, China. Your drive to make us better and optimize for the challenges we face is truly a force multiplier. To CQ, thank you for working alongside the Space Force, being such a strong advocate for space superiority. Clear skies and strong tailwind on your confirmation to be our next chairman.

Now, speaking of great partners, because these are two high quality partners, today’s my 31st wedding anniversary. More than any other, Jennifer’s kept my head in the game and focused on what really matters. Thanks sweetheart. Later this week, Chief Master Sergeant Toby Towberman is going to retire after close to 32 years of service to both our Air Force and Space Force. Toby, we could not have picked a better chief to be the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force. Your efforts in taking care of Guardians will be felt for years to come. Thank you for all that you’ve done for me, the Guardians and the U.S. Space Force.

Finally, shout out and thank you to AFA for giving me the opportunity to talk about where the Space Force is heading. I speak for all Guardians when I say we appreciate all you do to bring us together each and every year.

Now, let’s get on to business. Ladies and gentlemen, the space domain that I learned to fly satellites in is no more. The new space domain is far different. It has taken on characteristics of a more dangerous and dynamic security environment worldwide, but don’t take my word for it.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall (archival footage):

Since World War II, our world has experienced unprecedented peace and prosperity.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (archival footage):

Yet emerging threats and cutting edge technologies are changing the face and the pace of warfare.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall (archival footage):

We are dealing with aggressive and expansionary, authoritarian powers, something we have not seen for decades.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks (archival footage):

Take the People’s Republic of China, the only strategic competitor with the will and increasingly the capability to remake the international order that’s given so much benefit to so many for so long.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (archival footage):

Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is putting countless innocent lives at risk.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (archival footage):

We’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of unsafe aerial intercepts and confrontations at sea by PLA aircraft and vessels.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting (archival footage):

Space is now a war fighting domain. These threats have driven a cultural shift that has resulted in our new service, new ways of organizing and operating so that we can execute our space mission successfully.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall (archival footage):

War is not inevitable, but successfully deterring conflict is heavily dependent on our military capabilities.

Gen. B. Chance Saltzman:

You heard yesterday, Secretary Kendall lay out in great detail the security circumstances we find ourselves in today. I will not belabor the point, but it should be noted that no domain is immune from these circumstances, and as an integral part of our security environment, the space domain is now more contested than in any other point in history. This was the genesis of the Space Force, a military service focused on addressing the challenges and opportunities we face in the space domain. We were created for this new space era, an era increasingly characterized by great power competition. With this in mind, I recently asked our Guardians to take a look at our mission statement, and make sure that it properly described who we are and what we do. When I asked, Guardians responded. Here’s the result. This is our mission statement, and Guardians, these are your words. Secure our nation’s interests in, from, and to space.

It’s simple, it’s direct, and it clearly reflects our purpose and identity as Guardians. This new mission statement defines the why of the Space Force. Despite its simplicity, these nine words are packed with six separate and distinct concepts. These concepts help clarify what the Department of Defense tasks us to do each and every day. Let me explain.

Let’s start with the first word, “Secure.” It’s used here in the military sense. When we say secure, we’re referring to the Space Force’s charge to prepare ourselves to control, by military means if necessary, the space domain as part of any joint force effort. Next, the words “Our nation” reflect the trusted connection between Guardians and the nation we serve. The beneficiaries of our work are not a distinct, abstract group. They’re us. We are deeply connected to our work and the outcomes. Our Guardians have volunteered to answer the nation’s call to arms, and we remain fiercely committed to defending it.

The next concept, “Interests,” refers to the security and prosperity our nation derives from space. America’s interests in space are immense, and growing. From a military perspective, Guardians are integral members of the joint team, since all joint force operations depend on space capabilities and protection from space-enabled attacks. Now, the phrase “In, from, and to space” refers to core functions of the Space Force. Guardians secure our nation’s interests in space through space activities that protect the joint force and the nation from space and counterspace threats. A service must be able to control its domain in order to be able to access and exploit it. For our service, space superiority is the first core function, and it is the “In” aspect of the mission statement. It is the ability to contest, and when necessary, control the space domain at a time and place of our choosing.

In the last era, we were able to meet our mission just by accessing and exploiting the space domain. But now, this domain is contested, and therefore, control of the domain is an operational imperative. Each service must be able to control its domain: air superiority, sea control, land dominance, and now, space superiority. The ability to contest the domain with military force is the formative purpose of a service. Recognition of the need to focus on this critical function was the primary reason for the creation of the U.S. Space Force. With this space superiority, Guardians will now secure our nation’s interests from space by delivering critical global operations like satellite communications, precision navigation and timing to the joint force. A service must be able to exploit its domain. Once a service has control of its domain, it can then perform the other missions. For example, as this audience well knows, once the Air Force has control of the air domain, it can perform close air support, interdiction, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and mobility.

What we equally know is that it is a prerequisite, meaning if we can’t control our domain, the ability to exploit it is severely limited. For the Space Force, we exploit the domain by providing global mission operations as the second core function, or the “From” identified in the mission statement. Global mission operations enable the joint force to integrate the joint functions across all domains on a global scale. This is an important distinction, and only the U.S. Space Force can provide these truly worldwide capabilities our forces absolutely require as they defend U.S. and allied interests around the world.

In short, the joint force needs global communications, indications and warning, and precision. As I speak, the Space Force’s Delta Four is guarding our joint force, assuring our allies, deterring nuclear conflict by providing worldwide missile warning. Delta Eight is on duty every minute of every day, providing the joint force with a secure, reliable and resilient global communications architecture. Additionally, Guardians operating the GPS Constellation provide the gold standard in precision navigation and timing. This audience well knows the value of GPS-enabled precision, and even the criticality of the synchronization benefits provided by the GPS timing signal. I think it’s also noteworthy that the American public is increasingly becoming aware of the contribution GPS and the Space Force make to the economy and our everyday life.

Finally, Guardians secure the nation’s entrance to space by assuring we have the ability to launch satellites into orbit and then connect to and control them with a global ground network. The service must be able to access its domain even during a conflict. The ability to get to the domain and leverage all domains in pursuit of military objectives is essential to success. Whether we call this deployment sortie generation or fleet operations, it is crucial that we be able to do it, do it effectively, and do it promptly.

For the Space Force, assured access is our third core function, the “To” in our mission statement. It takes the form of two mission areas, launch capabilities and the satellite control network. That’s the network that establishes the radio frequency links to the satellites in order to command, download mission data, or transfer information between satellites. In the end, the mission statement and core functions provide Guardians with shared purpose, a common understanding of the core functions that drive us towards our objectives. I want to invite each Guardian to consider their place within the mission statement and the core functions. They define our organizing principles, they clarify the assumptions we’re making. They help identify the equipment we need to buy, identify the training Guardians need to be effective, and the myriad of other decisions that a military service needs to make to get the mission done.

Most importantly, it allows us as a service to be laser focused on fielding a purpose-built Space Force for great power competition. As Secretary Kendall so clearly stated, the challenge we need to be ready for is not the one we have been focused on for many years. Establishing the Space Force to focus on a contested space domain was a critical step, and now we must focus our efforts on a purpose-built Space Force for great power competition. Most importantly, we must recognize that we cannot just take our old structures and processes, rename them, and expect different outcomes. This brings to mind the old adage that says something like, “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” No, since we know we need new outcomes, we must invest our time, energy and effort into developing and optimizing new structures and processes.

This is why Secretary Kendall’s push to optimize our service for great power competition is so critical. We’re going back to basics within those five lines of effort, and we’re creating the structures and processes we will need to be successful in this era. To put it in joint terms, we need a new force design, new force development, new force generation and new force employment schemas. Let’s dig into this a little bit.

The first element is force design. Force design is the blueprint upon which we build our Space Force capabilities. It involves planning for future challenges that we might face, understanding the changing character of war, and determining the most effective structure and composition of forces to address the threat head-on. It requires a forward-looking mindset, considering advancements in technology and emerging threats. As we design our forces, we must emphasize adaptability, versatility, allowing us to respond with agility to both traditional and asymmetric threats.

One way we are understanding future challenges is by exploring ways to better integrate commercial space. Commercial capabilities, services and activities are expanding rapidly. The Space Force wants to harness these efforts to achieve an enduring advantage through commercial augmentation during times of competition, crisis and conflict. In particular, we want to take full advantage of the capacity, the rapid technology refresh rates and innovation offered by the commercial space sector, all to enhance and support the combatant commanders. With this in mind, and many other factors, our Space War Fighting Analysis Center is conducting detailed, data-driven mission analysis to assess the architectures we need for success. The goal is to design a force optimized for a given mission area while remaining cost-informed, so that it can be delivered on an operationally-relevant timeline.

The second element of building the Space Force we need is force development. Force development is the process of refining and enhancing our military capabilities. It involves investing in exercises, war games, training and education, to ensure that our personnel are equipped with the latest knowledge, skills, tools and experiences. It is not just about acquiring new weapons and equipment, but also about fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Through force development, we invest in our Guardians, to ensure that we remain at the front edge of military excellence in the domain, and ready to face the challenges ahead.

A key program under force development centers on educational opportunities for our Guardians. In developing our professional military education for the Space Force, we took an innovative approach. We created a program where the service partnered with a civilian institution, where military officers will be educated by world renowned professors and intermixed with civilian students, to maximize perspectives and learning opportunities. Opening its doors just a few weeks ago, this new intermediate and service level education program hosted by Johns Hopkins University is a first of its kind for any of the services, and is an example of how the Space Force will create the critical thinkers we need to meet the growing challenges we know we will face.

The third element is forced generation. It refers to the assembling, organizing and preparing of Space Forces to meet specific operational requirements. It is about ensuring that we have the necessary people, skills and resources available, when and where they are needed, for mission execution. It requires meticulous planning and new processes and procedures that effectively account for the advanced activities necessary to meet the demands of a contested space domain. Successful force generation guarantees that we can rapidly respond to crises, and execute missions effectively and with confidence, thereby creating the combat credibility that deters aggression. The Space Force has come to realize that to be effective, a service must align responsibility, authority and resources for all aspects of unit readiness. This must be comprehensive, and include all the activities and force elements, from cyber, space and intelligence operations to engineering and capabilities development efforts.

There are no perfect organizational structures. The structuring of people that do their jobs will always create seams. The key is to arrange the organization to maximize performance around what matters most, and minimize the negative integration effects that seams naturally create. In my mind, performance should be optimized around our missions rather than the functions that support them. In other words, we cannot afford to split mission areas’ critical activities across organizational seams. Instead, it’s essential that all elements of readiness, the people, the training, the equipment and the sustainment, fall into the same organizational structure, and that we create unity of command around those elements at the lowest possible level.

Therefore, the Space Force has started two proofs of concept we call integrated mission deltas, or IMDs, where both operations and sustainment for a mission area are under a single commander. One IMD prototype is supporting the electromagnetic warfare mission. The other IMD prototype is a new organization to support precision navigation and timing. Both of these deltas integrate operations and sustainment, creating the unity of command for all aspects of readiness, and enhance our ability to continue to provide world-class effects in the face of a determined adversary.

The fourth and final element in building the Space Force we need is force employment. It is the culmination of our efforts in force design, development and generation. Simply put, force employment as the application of our military power to achieve our nation’s interests. Force employment begins with normalizing how the service presents forces, and this began with standing up of service components to the regional combatant commands. This past year, we’ve stood up three new service components? Space Forces Indo-Pacific, Space Forces Korea, and Space Forces Central Command, to help strengthen the synergies between the domains within each of these AORs. I’m happy to announce that in December, we will stand up Space Force’s service component for European command and Africa command, to help integrate, collaborate, and cooperate with our joint teammates, partners, and allies in the region. These four basic responsibilities of a military service are foundational processes for our ability to access, control and exploit our domain.

It is critical that each of these processes produces tangible results now, so that we can address all of the current requirements and challenges that we face. However, it’s also important to realize that we must continue to develop and mature the processes themselves, as these are the engines that will allow us to always produce the capabilities and the talents the nation needs. Our force design must enhance its modeling and simulation capability, to more rapidly integrate emerging technologies into its assessments. Our force development must continually evaluate how we train, educate, and experience our force, so that we can prepare them to handle uncertainty, ambiguity and black swan events. Our force generation must adapt to dynamic threats, so that combat readiness is prompt, effective and sustainable. Our force employment must be flexible enough to provide combatant commanders an array of options to deal with full spectrum operations, from competition to crisis and conflict. When done right, not only will these processes produce what we need today, but they will allow us to remain agile and adaptable, capable of responding to rapidly evolving challenges in, from and to space.

We are living in complex strategic times, and space is critical at this inflection point. The conflict in Ukraine has made clear access to and use of space is fundamental to modern warfare. It is also clear that technology is not a force enabler on its own. It is about the readiness of the forces to use that technology that will tip the scales towards success. For the Space Force, it is our Guardians. They are the real strength of the Space Force. No matter what threat we face, I’m not worried at all, because of the amazing Guardians and their spirit of creativity, innovation and determination, and the amazing initiatives that they’re implementing in the Space Force. Let me highlight a few examples.

Guardians like First Lieutenant Tamara Fumagalli, attached to United States European Command, from the 163rd Electronic Magnetic Combat Detachment. She led a four member detail including Sergeant Brian Van Acker, Sergeant Jacob Turner, and Specialist Four Zachary Fry, on the urgent, 45-day forward deployment. Despite facing manning and time constraints, the team was able to diversify their skills by training across their specialties, each member becoming multi capable, combat credible Guardians. The team’s effort led to the operationalization of a next generation multipurpose space EW construct, and showcased the system’s capacity and capabilities to provide rapid and dependable geolocation for space electronic warfare in support of joint, NATO and allied partners. Guardians made that happen.

Another Guardian who exemplifies the Guardian spirit is Captain Connor Thigpen, from the 1st Range Operations Squadron. As you might imagine, when you launch rockets into space, it’s important to keep aircraft out of the flight path. This is done through launch closure windows, but those can be very disruptive to air traffic. Captain Thigpen reviewed the shuttle era airspace rules and thought we could do better, so he developed a solution that keeps the major air routes open through space launch windows, avoiding the traditional four-hour closures that were the norm. This ingenuity eliminated airline reroute cost, reduced the workload for air traffic controllers, and enabled the quick approval of longer launch windows. Since its implementation in April of this year, the savings have been valued at a half million dollars and counting Guardians made that happen.

In March of this year, we held our inaugural Guardian Field Forum, to ensure leaders were getting feedback from the field back up to the headquarters. We asked 59 Guardians and Airmen to come to DC, describe their most important challenges, and offer ways to get after them, and they delivered. For example, they illustrated how we could use a modest increase in instructors to dramatically increase our training pipeline capacity from 576 to 864 Guardians per year. They outlined an enhanced relationship between U.S. Cyber Command and the Space Force’s Defensive Cyber Operations units, resulting in better collaboration between cyber analysts and our cyber defenders.

They highlighted the need for clarity in roles and responsibilities between officers, enlisted and civilians in the Space Force, and the need for a better structure to leverage our super coder cadre, and I’m happy to report that all of these ideas are being implemented. Guardians made that happen.

Finally, the development of our mobile application, Guardian One, is another example. After initial estimates of costs were predictably high, and timelines predictably lengthy, we turned to our super coders, to see if they could organically create something useful, and they just blew my socks off.

Four Guardian super coders, Sergeant Tyler Overholt, Sergeant David Kerick, Specialist Three Nehemiah Alvarado, and Specialist Three Sybil Fine spent six weeks, and delivered our first mobile application, Guardian One. Developed by Guardians for Guardians, it is an online connection resource for our Guardians, with essential tools and the latest news updates and announcements. It will expand our digital service area, and hopefully become an integral part of the Guardian journey in the future. Now, this minimum viable product, the first iteration, is already available on your app store of choice. You can see the QR code there, help yourself.

The super coders are actively seeking feedback. In fact, it’s a feature on the app itself, so that they can evolve the app into the tools Guardians want it to be. My favorite part of this story is this: Master Sergeant Mark Terry, as I was getting the rollout of this application, I was just asking him what the toughest part was, and he told me that super coder training did not really include the skills needed to develop the mobile app. As Master Sergeant Terry let me know, super coder training is focused on a different kind of coding, the kind needed for our mission systems, and apparently, not all coding is the same. Who knew?

I asked, “What did you do? How’d you get this done?”

He said, “I just stayed up all night, and learned what I needed to know to code for the mobile application.” That’s right, he just pulled an all-nighter to make this happen. If that doesn’t capture the Guardian spirit, I don’t know what does. A job needed to be done, so the Guardian did what needed to be done to get after it. He used his know-how, and dedicated himself to success, and he accomplished the mission that was at hand. Now, we have a mobile application for the Space Force. Guardians made that happen. These are just a couple of incredible stories of our Guardians, and the initiatives they’re developing and implementing to get us ready for the future. We cannot stop now and rest on our laurels, because we know our enemies won’t.

Mr. Secretary, I’ve heard your call. The Space Force has heard your call, and now, I want to further charge the Guardians. In order to continue building our service for great power competition, I need Guardians who will challenge the status quo. I need Guardians who are problem solvers. I need Guardians who will articulate the roadblocks they have to their leadership, and I need Guardians who will aggressively tackle our problems as a team. I know you’re up to it, because I hear your incredible stories every day. I could not be prouder of the Space Force team that makes all this happen. Your character, connection, courage, and commitment is why I’m so confident that the Space Force will be ready to meet any threat anywhere, to secure our nation’s interest in, from, and to space.