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United States Must Work To Maintain Lead In Space

Spacewar | April 27, 2005
by Tech. Sgt. James A. Rush

The space industry's key players loudly applauded a speech on maintaining the United States' lead in space presented by the commander of Air Force Space Command at the National Space Symposium's Corporate Partner Dinner at the Broadmoor Hotel April 5.

General Lance W. Lord addressed an audience of more than 900 people comprised primarily of corporate officers from the command's industry partners on day two of the week-long conference.

He emphasized teamwork and accountability as keys to sustaining the nation's edge in space. The symposium is one of the largest gatherings of military and corporate space professionals U.S. must work to maintain lead in space in the country.

Citing Monday night's NCAA men's basketball national championship game, General Lord pointed out how even a large advantage can be threatened. Eventual winner North Carolina saw a 15-point edge whittled down to two before it pulled out a 75-70 win.

"That goes to show no lead is safe. No lead really lasts unless you keep working on your game," General Lord said.

The general listed examples of how the United States is honing its skills in the space arena. Use of Global Positioning Satellites is at an all-time high, intercontinental ballistic missile force readiness hovers at 99.5 percent and there have been 40 consecutive successful launches since 1999, he said.

"We've got 960 to go. I want 1,000 and there's no reason we can't do that," General Lord said and the audience showed its agreement with extended applause.

Space has become an integral component in U.S. warfighting efforts, he said. Combatants from all U.S. forces rely on protection provided by far-seeing satellites.

Ground troops have become very comfortable with early warning provided by Airmen through AFSPC's orbiting observers, the general said.

Space command's ability to continue its combat support depends on the ingenuity of its Airmen and its business partners, he continued.

"We've been successful because we work on systems developed for other purposes [like GPS] and adapt them to our needs through an innovative and creative spirit," the general said.

The Air Force's top space general responded to acquisition criticisms and forcefully defended the overall process. He assured the audience that individual and organizational problems have been appropriately managed.

"The [acquisition] process is not broken. Get over it," General Lord said. "It's got some flaws, like we need faster cycle times, but it's not broken."

Key to fixing these flaws and avoiding future legal or ethical issues is a joint effort between space Airmen and the space industry, he said.

"We've got to move on and let's take the high ground. Let's work this together," the general said.

General Lord concluded his speech with a story from his visit with Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.

Uncertain what to think as he entered the facility, the general was met by enthusiastic and dedicated soldiers many of whom were anxious to rejoin the fight with prosthetic replacements for the limbs they had lost.

"We can't let our lead evaporate, because everything we do is for them," he said.


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