Watch, Read: Space Force’s Towberman at vASC 2020

Video: Air Force Association on YouTube

Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the Space Force’s senior enlisted adviser, addessed a live audience in the Pentagon Sept. 15, 2020, one of a series of keynote addresses during the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Here is a transcript: 

“Forward when we could have folded, and finding a way to do this virtually, it does my heart good to watch us use innovative, great ways to find, find victory. And I appreciate the team putting all this together. And I appreciate that folks have found time to come here and hang out with me today, appropriately social distanced. So thanks for being here, filling ‘quote- unquote, filling the auditorium.’ It’s really, it’s great to see everybody. Thanks, ma’am, our wonderful Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, I know she’s out there somewhere in the interwebs, so ma’am, thank you for everything you’ve done. Thanks for all you’ve done for me, thanks for what you do for all of our space professionals, I really, truly appreciate it. 

“Gen. [John W. “Jay”] Raymond, I know you’re out there as well, and Miss Mollie [Raymond]. And so my thanks to you for giving me an opportunity. We were joking before the cameras turned on about my interesting young life, and I’ll tell you, sir, to have this opportunity to be here and serve along your side is something that I certainly could never have dreamed up. And so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. Thanks to our teammates on the other side of the hallway, Gen. [Charles Q.] Brown [Jr.] and Chief [Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S.] Bass, we truly appreciate you in particular, Chief Bass, you know I love you like a sister, and we’ll continue to be great teammates. I couldn’t be happier for you, or for the United States Air Force, for, for what you’re about to tackle, and I’m so happy to be just a little bit down the hall and spending time with you. Thanks to our industry partners, to our congressional folks, to so many others that make this happen, that care about space, that have made your United [States] Space Force a thing. And I really, really appreciate it. And of course, my lovely bride, Rachel, and our three children, Muppet, Charlie, and Isla, which you can tell by their names are not real children but beautiful, furry children that she cares a lot about. So hi to the cats that are watching this out there in the, in the virtual world. I appreciate it. And then my two grown sons as well, Henry and Gabriel are running around somewhere undoubtedly, too busy to pay too much attention to this. 

“But, so, this is your Space Force. And your Space Force is about a lot of things, but it’s really about you. And so by the numbers, let’s talk. It’s been 270 days since we stood up the force. In April, I became the second member. We brought in 86 cadets from the US Air Force Academy shortly after that. In May, we opened up a volunteer window. 8,592 folks volunteer for a little over 6,400 slots. And we couldn’t be happier to have your involvement. Over the month of September, we’ll bring in about 2,400, 2,436 will be our end strength, hopefully by the first of October. And so we’re growing. We’re growing all the time. But the involvement across the board has been incredible. We’ve had two town halls that I’ve personally gotten on social media and had, we’ve had over 110,000 interactions, hearing your thoughts, collecting your ideas, answering your questions. And I really from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for your cooperation, for your interest, for your insights, because we’re listening. 

“We’ve brought 133 people together in four different sprints to talk about promotions, to talk about human capital management, to talk about all kinds of things that we need to talk about. And we’re not doing it alone in this building, we’re doing it with your help. And so we really, really appreciate every time we ask for volunteers that we get multi-discipline volunteers of different ranks, of different specialties, of different backgrounds to come together with us and talk about what your Space Force is going to look like. We’re about to do some uniform wear tests. And we made, I believe the good choice to say, ‘hey, we’ll use a different group every time.’ We want as many people involved in our future as possible. So 60 folks will be trying out service dress, 60 folks will be trying out PT gear, on and on and on, we’ll always reach out for more and more ideally, 10 years down the road, everybody looks at something we’ve done and says, ‘I was a part of that.’ When we went to social media, we asked for ideas we had on ranks, and we had over 1,300, 1,350 different ideas that came into us that we happily worked through, because they’re coming from you, and we can’t say thank you enough. 

“Another number, maybe the last number that I’d like to talk about, for right now anyway, is the number 13. Because number 13 is how many people on what we’re calling the first team. And the Air Force was kind enough to give me 10 wonderful chiefs, again, multi-discipline. So we’ve got personnel experts, we’ve got manpower experts, we’ve got training experts. I’ve got intel, cyber, space experts, my teammates, who are fantastic human beings, who are fantastic chiefs, who walked away in many cases from retirement, from other opportunities to do great things in the Air Force, and said, ‘Hey, for the next little bit of time, let me hang out with you guys and make the Space Force great.’ And so for everybody on that screen in those pictures, man oh man, what a wonderful team and from the bottom of my heart, thanks. And then my three teammates as well, teammates, handlers, keepers, babysitters. It’s not easy to work anywhere. In the Pentagon, it’s particularly not easy to have a full-time responsibility of keeping me between the lines, and so to Sergeant Jackson and Sergeant Monaco and Sergeant Gibson, thank you for being my teammates, and thanks for everything you do.

“When we picked this team, early on, and really when we were standing up the Space Force early on, I went to Chief [Master Sgt. Kaleth O.] Wright at the time, and we were talking through things as, as we did, and threw around some ideas, and he said, ‘You know what you need to do? You need to build a great team.’ And so that really is where we put this focus. And we went to the Air Force and we brought these folks together, and here we are. And we didn’t just ask for fantastic Airmen. I wanted subject-matter experts, but I wanted, if I can use a [Malcolm] Gladwell term on you, I wanted them to be disagreeable. They had to be able to say, we’ve been raised by the United States Air Force, which has built the greatest NCO corps in history. There’s no question about that. And we’re happy, and we’re proud of everything we’ve done, but we’re disagreeable enough, we’re gonna look, we’re gonna think big, we’re gonna think bold, and we’re gonna look for ways that our size and scale of the Space Force will give us opportunities to do things that we couldn’t have done, or that we can’t do in the Air Force. And so this is about taking great ideas and shared aspirations, because most of the aspirations for both of our services are the same. But it’s an opportunity to say, but what can we do? What can we launch on? What can we be the, kind of, think spot? Where can we be the tiny team that tries something out and then you’ll scale later, as applicable? 

“So we’ll continue to look for those advantages of size and scale as we move forward. We’ll look at professional military education [PME]. We’ve got our NCO Academy that will stand up by 1 October, on 1 October, and so we will own the NCO Academy at Peterson Air Force Base [Colo.,]—we’re very excited about that opportunity—and start to shape Space Force professional military education, certainly enlisted Space Force professional military education. And when we say ‘add space flavor,’ I want to be clear, that’s not just about teaching Space 101 to everybody. That’s about our priorities. So if our priorities are diversity inclusion, it’s about starting to shape that Academy to maybe teach that differently than another service might do. This is what’s important to all services, that we develop our people. So we’ll continue to do that in PME. We’ll do it with promotions. And we’ve had a promotion sprint, and we’re talking a lot about promotions. Many of you have seen, I was quoted recently as saying, ‘I don’t want tests. I don’t want tests.’ I certainly don’t want knowledge tests that teach someone that rote memorizing facts is somehow relevant in the world today. Somebody a few minutes ago was teasing me because there, was telling us a funny story, because her daughter was trying to use Alexa to answer a math class question. But you know, in actuality, what’s the point? I want people that can think critically, I want people that can reason, I want people that when given access to all the information in the world can bring it together in a useful way. Just memorizing stuff and spitting out a multiple-choice test is not where we want to go. So were gonna get rid of that promotion testing, we’re going to go to boards. And we’re excited to kind of watch how that grows and the specifics on that we’ll get out to y’all, very soon. 

“We’re going to talk about human capital management, we’re never going to forget that the real weapon system lives and breathes, that this is about making sure that we can find bespoke tailored solutions for every human being. That’s a place where our size and scale gives us advantage. We want technical expertise, we want to make sure your assignments make sense to you and to us. We’ve already got folks in legislative liaison positions enlisted, so we’ll continue to grow that program right from the beginning, and we will be a service that is very present on the Hill and very engaged in that process. And we’re excited to have stripes doing that already today, we’ll keep doing that. And we’re already talking through what is the enlisted role and things like international affairs. So we will tease out that idea as well. We’re just talking through some of those things this week. So, we’re really excited for the things that we can pull off with this very small team that’s focused on this kind of holistic environment that we’re growing, this ecosystem of the human weapon system.

“We just did a chief’s grade review the other day where we brought in this, this first team and also some other folks from around the enterprise and brought them together and looked at the only 31 E-9 positions that we have and where do we need those, and where’s the priority? What are those places we will have senior enlisted leaders on the staff? Man, that’s good news for the people, right, in the front row. Oh, we don’t need functional managers, like larger services need, but I’ll tell you what we absolutely need: We need leadership and we need enlisted voice in the room. So we’re going to have folks in positions where we can make a difference and we can have a perspective. Diversity always includes many, many things. One of the things that includes is we need an enlisted perspective. So we’re going to do everything we can to do that. 

“And, so all of that is kind of the team, and all the things that we have in front of us. And, you know, what we’re going to do first is figure out what should guide those conversations. And the flag that I think you’re looking at right now, we got that sent to, to me actually over the weekend. This is kind of cool because it’s, it really underpins our warfighting mission. This flag, this United States Space Force flag, the picture taken by a couple of CGOs and a senior NCO who are, I’m not going to mention their names for security reasons, but are in USAFRICOM today, over their compound proudly flying the US Space Force flag, and pretty neat. And it reminded me that when we unveiled the flag that the CSO said that Polaris on the flag is our core values, it’s our guiding light. Our values should guide our actions. And that’s where we’re headed. And we’re going to use our values to guide the development of everything, that we believe that values are not just something that’s in the background, they’re not just something that underpins, but that they’re something that should guide our actions every day. We’re going to have a values conference here very soon. And at that values conference, we will work through what those values should be, because it really should be a holistic approach to everything we do, where the development and the promotions and recruiting and everything [are] connected. And so we want it all kind of tied neatly under, under a set of values that we can use as the heuristics which will guide our actions. 

“We want those assumptions and reminders at all times to say, ‘This is what’s important to us. This is what we want in the front of our mind when we’re making these plans.’ We don’t want to just simply sit down and brainstorm in front of a whiteboard. We want to say, but what have we been saying all along? What have we been saying over and over, that, that we already know is important to us? Everything we do should point to our values. And the choice, architecture, and incentives we invent and invest in should have clear measures directly related to our values. And over the last two years, we’ve talked a lot about these things. And, and there’s a lot of information out there. So one of the things that we’re going to do when we start this values conference is, we’re going to use that stuff. So if you’ve had all of these things said already about what you want out of the Space Force, it would only make sense that we would find an A1C, and say, ‘Hey go mine this information and give it to us.’ So, I think we’re looking at Airman Rojas right now. I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, great young man. His parents were actually both born in Cuba and, and found their way to America. And an Airman Ross has a master’s degree in data, big data analytics. 

“And so here he is at Schriever Air Force Base [Colo.,] and he says, ‘I’ll help.’ And so he can go now, out, and everywhere in the old internet that we’ve said things, we can take our doctrine and feed it in there, we can take our planning guide and we can put it in there, we can take the outcome of our values conference, we can, and we can build word clouds and say, ‘Hey, this is where our head’s at, this is where our head has actually been for a long, long time.’ And so I think we’ve got a slide of the word cloud. This is just an example, but this is kind of how of where we think the digital service should go. This isn’t about just brainstorm from fresh on Monday morning. This about what have we already been saying? And we know those things. We know we want warfighters. We know we want a sense of community. We know we want innovation. We know we want to manage talent, we don’t want talent to just happen. We know we want inclusiveness, we want to be bold, we want to think big. We need technical experts. We don’t need to hang labels on those experts so that a machine gives them assignments, but we have to have great specialists and great technicians. I want to focus on the warfighting and all of that, I think will play out. I think we’ve been saying that all along. These words will be our starting point. And we’ll set out together with guidance and intent fully in our minds. 

“There’s one more number that I think is important to everyone and one more number I’d ask you to keep in mind as we go forward, and that number is zero. None of you will be left out of the conversation. None of you will be treated like a number. None of you will face times when you’re not included. None of you is more important than any other. Nobody in the Space Force has a reason to sit back and be unheard. Nobody in the Space Force has an opinion that I don’t want to know. This really is your service, and our size and scale gives us an advantage, a level of intimacy that nobody else can have, and we’ve got to capitalize on that. And I beg you, every one of you here, every one of you out there, hold us accountable. If it doesn’t feel like you have a voice, that has to feel wrong to you. If it doesn’t feel like you’re making a difference, that should feel wrong to you, and you need to raise your hand. You need to raise your hand and say, ‘Hey, I’m being left behind.’ None of you will be managed when you should be led. None of you will have families that we don’t think about, or loved ones that we don’t remember when we make decisions. I appreciate every single one of you. We do. This institution will always remember that all of you have vowed to give your life, if that’s what it comes to. And we will do everything we can to earn that commitment, so that nobody is making a promise to us that we’re not reciprocating in-kind. None of you will have barriers to your success. None of you are too whatever: too young, too low-ranking, too fill in the blank, too far from ops for us to listen to. We will listen to you. All of you matter. All of you are part of your future. You are our Space Force.”

VIDEO: “There’s a wonderful woman the Library of Congress has called a living legend, Marian Wright Edelman. She once said, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ As we launch the Space Force, it will be important … that everybody sees their path, sees their opportunity. 

When you look at the Space Force, what do you see?

I see me. 

I see me. 

I see me. 

I see me. 

Thank you.”

Towberman: “Thanks for being part of the team. We’ve got a little bit of time for questions for the folks in the room. If you’ve got questions, we’ll answer them for the benefit of everyone. Otherwise, you can all escape and go back to your day and enjoy the rest of the conference.”

Question: “My question is, in the Space Force do we have a plan going forward, are we going to continue for something like a diamond-wearing first sergeant based on manning, or are we going to move to something like the Navy with the chiefs’ mess, where all senior NCOs get involved, or something different?” 

Towberman: “Yes, so, in case it wasn’t clear on the broadcast, he asked me, Sergeant Quillin, who works for Chief Bass, by the way, he’s doing a great job down the hall. He asked me about first sergeants in the, in the Space Force. Go ahead and sit down, my friend. So right now, I think we’re, we’re kind of in this kind of bridging time with first sergeants. What we know is that the, the first sergeant model that we use in the United States Air Force works. It also is something that’s taught to everyone. So it’s the way our commanders think, it’s the way our superintendents think, it’s the way folks think. And so for right now, we’re going to continue to use Air Force first sergeants in our in our squadrons. We’ve done the math, we think we can convert those billets and use Space Force folks in the operational squadrons. What we’ve got to decide now is if and how we do that. So there is a model that could say, ‘Hey, we don’t need a separate specialty that does that.’ This could just be what, as you said, every senior NCO does, this could be a job that’s, that the squadron commander picks somebody for and they do. We haven’t really worked through that yet. The one thing that we can’t forget is that while it may be just a handful of senior NCOs, they represent a talent management pool of much larger, right? 

“And so for every E-9, that represents 100 people in the force. And so it’s easy to flip spaces and grab a billet or two. It’s a lot more difficult to think, yeah, but this isn’t just one billet, this is about 50 billets. So where are those coming from? And where do we lay them in? Not to mention the 10 to 15 years of experience it takes to build a quality senior NCO and get them ready to be a first sergeant. So for right now, we’re gonna continue to lean on the Air Force. But I think we’ll see we’ve got great space operators, and intel professionals, cyber professionals with time as first sergeants, and currently being first sergeants right now. So we’ll use them as well. I think we’ll see, I know we’ll see blue name tapes as first sergeants both in the Space Force and a couple in the Air Force that are starting already. So, I think we’re in a good place. Love my first sergeants.

Anybody else?”

Question 2: “Are there going to be more opportunities for, like, overseas assignments?”

Towberman: “Yeah, if you guys didn’t hear, A1C Kenney just asked me about assignments overseas. You can go ahead and sit down. Thanks for being here. Like you’re one of the youngest members of the Space Force. That’s awesome. She’s just looking at me like, don’t talk about me. So I think we’ll have all the same opportunities that we have today, or that we had on 19 December 2019. But I see it growing, as the international partnerships continue to be more and more important to us, as coalitions continue to be vital in ensuring unfettered access to and freedom of maneuver in space, I can’t help but think that there will be more and more opportunities. I don’t think those opportunities will look necessarily like other services. I don’t think we’re going to build a base in Germany, for instance, anytime soon. But I think that individual opportunities are going to exist because we have to have great allies and partners to pull this off. And then my job is to say, where are those opportunities, right, for folks that are wearing chevrons? I think those opportunities will be there, that’s part of that international affairs conversation is about, that, like how do we do this? But make no mistake, I mean, those three folks in Africa that sent us that flag, they’re not the only ones that we have deployed, there’s certainly opportunities. We’re a small force, and we’re a focused force. But it’s not like we’re, we don’t have kind of an extended presence. We definitely do. So, I tell you what, you get with Chief Brian later, he’ll take you on a journey of all the places you can end up as you stay with us. Fair? Thanks for the question. Who else?”

Question 3: “I remember during one of your town halls you mentioned, due to like how lean of a service we will be, the possibility of us, like, being able to PCS [permanent change of station] in shorter periods of time, like might be a thing. So how much of a discussion has been going around about that? And, and with us being able to PCS, I guess, faster, the same way that commanders do, like every two years? If that would be the case? Will there be more of an ability to like switch bids, because right now we’re doing a bidding process?”

Towberman: “Yes. So thanks for the question. You know that you’ve been talking too much in public when somebody comes to a microphone and throws words you’ve said, you know, six months ago, back in your face, go ‘What about this, chief?’ So, I appreciate you holding me accountable. So if you couldn’t hear, she asked me—Go ahead, you can sit. Oh, you want to ask another question when we’re done. OK. So she asked me about assignment opportunities. And you know, what I’ll say kind of fits into everything I’ve already said.

“More important to me is that we stay away from kinda blanket policies and proxies that might intimate what we know about somebody, but don’t necessarily tell us, like, for real what we know. Every assignment decision should be part what’s in the best interest of the service, [part] what’s in the best interest of the human being? What do they want to do? What are they good at? What do we believe they can be good at? And then kinda, you put that all together and say, what’s the right answer? I think that, for some people, that will be hey, you’ve only been here two years, time for you to go. For other people, it’ll be like, hey, it’s OK. You can stay here on the front range for a minute, and nobody’s gonna be bothered. I really think that that’s the most important part of this conversation, is that we stay away from these ‘if this, than this,’ without thinking through. Every human being is different. Every space, every size hole is a different size and shape. And every size peg is a different size and shape. And it’s our job, it’s our obligation to do what we can to match those up as perfectly as possible. And I think that’s kinda the key, right? Because if we can do that, because of our size and scale, that’ll be something that we can do that a large organization would really struggle doing. And that now starts to give us a different kind of thing, right? It gives us an identity that says, in this business, this is how it works. And so I think we’ll get there. 

“There’s a lot of time spent in a large organization kind of labeling you as a human being, and describing you in some kind of, you know terms, so that a machine or an algorithm can decide what’s best for you next. I don’t want to do that. I want to say, hey, let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about what you’re good at, and what the potential that we see that you could be good at. I’d much rather have that conversation. And I think we can do that on a case-by-case individual basis. Does that answer your question? More or less, she’s like, maybe. Do you want to, do you want to leave or do you want to stay? You want to stay, all right, you send us a note. We’ll see what we’ll see what the plan is. Chief Brian will figure it out. He’s already giving me a thumbs up. You’re good.”

Question 4: “So my next question, really, so, General Raymond talked about his acceptance of moderate risk. So how important is risk management for you guys? Because if you look at the Air Force models of like risk management and risk assessment, there doesn’t really seem to be too much room for taking risks, it seems like. So what is moderate risk? You know, how important is that? I feel like we need to have more flexibility when it comes to taking risks, especially with a new service, and all the stuff we want to do and all the stuff we are doing.”

Towberman: “We might have to move you to the front office, actually. The only thing, the only thing more scary than having someone come to the mic and throw your own words in your face is to throw the CSO’s words in your face, right. Like, I’m like, ah! So, great conversation. And actually General Thompson and I were talking about risk yesterday. You know, I think that I think that the mechanisms are solid, right, like we know how to manage risk. There’s a lot of functional communities where this is really part of, you know, I think that science is pretty good, you know, risk analysis. We’ve got to make sure our eyes are open to what’s the real benefit, what’s the real risk, you know, cause we can’t get trapped in dogma or, or group think ,or yesterday’s news. You really have to be like, what, what’s on the line here? And I think it’s a completely different ballgame for us. I think we’ll go through the same kind of checklist, if you will, to say, OK, this is what we risk, and this is what we could gain or lose. But I just think all those numbers are different. I think all of the environment is different. And we have to remind ourselves of that, because especially those of us that are old and spent a lot of time in certain cultures, we’ve got to step back and go, ‘Wait a minute, am I thinking about this in a fresh way? Am I thinking about this in a way that matters right now?’ And what we’re doing right now. Space Operations has changed significantly over just the last few years. So we’ve got to constantly remind ourselves that this is a new world, and this is an emerging world, and that change and technology are just coming faster and faster all the time. So I think it’s different. Also, we don’t have, on some of these things, we don’t have a standard, right, like, we haven’t done it before. So what’s the risk? Like, I’ve got nothing to lose. Let’s go. Let’s try this. And so I think that that’s going to be important. 

“It [will] also be important, I think, with regard to risk, that we’re comfortable with kind of small-batch solutions. And I don’t say that just because I’m a whiskey fan, but because I think it’s a, it’s a good way to try things out. So there’s no reason to say ‘Hey, this is how we’re going to do Basic Military Training for everyone, and we’ll review it in three years.’ We could say, ‘Hey, let’s do it this way for this group of nine people. Let’s do it this way for this group of 40. And let’s see, let’s collect their feedback, and if we need to change in a month, we’ll change in a month.’ I think again, that those things, and something we don’t do a really great job of all the time, when we come up with these great ideas, is we don’t pause and say, how are we going to measure the effectiveness of this? We’ll say, we’re going to do this, and we all think this is the greatest piece of toast of all time. But how are we going to measure that effectiveness? What are we going to measure? And when are we going to say, ‘No, that actually needed some jam,’ right? Like, what’s the, what’s that point? And so, we’re going to try to do that, as we walk through these decisions to say, ‘Hey, this is what, what we’re accepting, what we’re not accepting in terms of risk. This is what we think we can do.’ And try it out and see what happens and then go. We’ve got to be, we can’t talk about agility, and adaptability, and speed, and the things we’ve been talking about, and be completely comfortable all the time. Like, those things won’t work. Like you can’t be comfortable and move quickly and be adaptive and be agile. You’re gonna have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable sometimes, or having some unknowns. And I think all of us have to wrap our head around that. And on the individual, smaller conversations about very specific things, we still have to remember that the lessons we teach and the culture that is born from those conversations could have much farther reaching effects, right? Everything we’re doing affects everything else. It’s never about just the individual decision we’re making in this particular moment. Is that fair? You can come back in six more months and throw it in my face again. Or you might be working for me by then. So you know, then we’ll just have a private conversation in the office.

Yes, sir. One more.”

Question 5: “I’m just curious with this lean force, and with this I guess, drive to kind of meet your demand and the CSO’s [chief of space operation’s] demand to tailor individual talents. How are we going to incentivize our Airman who might get out at four years like this smart, Senior Airman back here, you know, what’s preventing her monetarily for staying in with these special tactics that you guys are going to teach?”

Towberman: “Yeah. So you know what, I think your question had some really good kind of generalities at first and then you threw the money thing in and got specific at the end. For anybody that didn’t hear, because I don’t know how well the broadcast is picking up the mic. But so he asked me, ‘Hey, how does talent management play against the reality that there’s a big bad world out there that’s constantly pulling talent right out of the military, period, in particular enlisted talent.’ 

“And so I’ll tell you, it’s a big deal, and the money thing is part of it, but that’s certainly not all of it. And so, for one, you should know that this is important to SEAC Colon-Lopez and I saw him just this morning. This is a big deal in the service, senior listed advisers are all meeting I think day after tomorrow. We’re kind of talking about this, like is our pay chart right? Is this the way that works? If you if you think about it, I think we would all agree that the enlisted talent that comes in year by year is getting better, they’re better educated, they’re better qualified, they’re smarter, they’re, they’re more ready. I think we all would agree with that assumption. And so if I put a percentage raise across the entire pay chart, then the people at the top of that chart, and the people at that bottom of the chart start to grow apart, right, the difference in their pay grows apart. So I would suggest that if the enlisted talent is becoming better and better, and we’re paying them commensurate with everyone else, less and less, we’re actually valuing that talent by programmatics. We’re valuing that talent less every year. So I think we’ve got to talk about it, right? 

“Like, we’ve got to talk about what’s, what’s the right answer. However, we’ll never, I’m never gonna outbid the Google-zons right? Like, that’s not gonna happen. And nor do I need it to, because I believe if we deliver the individualized, tailored solutions, that will be enough for somebody. ‘Well, wait a minute, I get to serve my country, I get to do this really cool job. And they’re not treating me like a number.’ Right? I think that it really is holistic. And I’m not afraid. If somebody wants to leave, they need to leave. We have to make them capable of leaving. Like, our investment needs to be in the human beings. Our focus has to be not on retention, not on promotion, but on development. Our focus has to be: If you sign up and you join this team because we see more in you than maybe you even see in yourself, that we’re gonna lay out a plan, and we’re gonna work with you to uncover the greatness that’s already inside of you. And what you do with that greatness is your call, it’s up to you. No harm, no foul, right? 

“We’ve got to pay talent what talent deserves. We’ve got to have pay and allowances that are enough to take money off the table, if you will, right? Like some people shouldn’t be on, you know, having to wonder how much money they have. But we’re not going to compete, we’ve got to compete with culture. We’ve got to compete with identity. We’ve got to, I mean, it’s the Space Force. Like, I get points for that, because it’s the Space Force. And so how do we do that? And I think it starts with this focus on the infinite game of investing in human beings, and in developing folks above everything else. 

“And if we’ve developed you to greatness, if you reach your potential and you’re going to take that somewhere else, high five. Go out there and be our emissary, be our recruiter, always be a Space Force member, right? Like, that’s what I would say. If, if my new assistant leaves after four years, if she tries to run away, I’ll say, OK, just be a good recruiter for us. Is that fair, answer your question?

“Hey, is there any more?

“So thank you. Thanks for everybody that we’ve trapped inside this auditorium to have to listen to me. I appreciate you hanging out, and I assume smiling behind your masks. Thanks to everybody out there who has been watching, a big thanks to AFA again for pulling this off. And thanks to all my teammates that worked hard and the crew that’s here as well, working through this technical feat. I mean, this has really been incredible. So thanks, everyone. And on this end, we bid you a great day and enjoy the rest of the conference.”