Will USAF Regain Space Cred?

With the fairly certain confirmation of Erin Conaton to fill USAF’s long-vacant No. 2 civilian spot, a very real question is will the Air Force undersecretary be DOD executive agent for space. At her Nov. 19 confirmation hearing, Sen. Carl Levin acknowledged that “we do not yet know whether Ms. Conaton will exercise this responsibility.” (Also see Who Would be Space Boss) The senators posed no space-related questions. They did ask about her ideas to improve USAF business practices—Rep. Ike Skelton, her boss on the House Armed Services Committee, testified to her managerial acumen—and they asked about her commitment to neutrality and fairness in the KC-X tanker contest. Conaton acknowledged the necessity for a “fair and open competition and that it be clear … how the decision was made.” (For more on Conaton hearing, see On the Firing Line)