Remarks by Chief of Space Operations General Chance Saltzman during the AFA Air Warfare Symposium’s Great Power Competition Senior Leader Panel

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As delivered by U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman on Feb. 12, 2024 


Afternoon how’s everyone doing?   

Batting fourth in this lineup is terrible. Like home run, home run, home run. Now the pressure on standing or the plate…sweating.   

Orville thanks for everything. Thanks for all you've done for the Air and Space Forces. And for this Association - its tremendous.   

I went to my first Air Force Association conference when I was a cadet in college.   

And, I have no idea what was said on any of the stages even though I was in a lot of those sessions.   

What I remember is the after parties the hospitality suites.   


So, just to tell you how long ago it was. I got adopted by the command chiefs of SAC, TAC, MAC, ATC, and they shepherded me around to all of the hospitality suites and I think I learned more about the Air Force in those evening events with them than I did in the three and a half years in ROTC.   

But like I said, I don't remember much of what happened on the stage.   

So, I'm a little daunted here by addressing seems like 6,000 people knowing that they're more excited about getting to the after parties then maybe listening to me as their last speaker today.  


But some important things do happen on the stage.   

For instance, I got a poster when I was a cadet at the AFA convention that said the YF-22 beat the YF-23 in the fly off. Turns out was a big deal for the Air Force...I don't know.   


So, I think, if you pay attention to the activities that are being described here, you're going to see the course of your Air and Space Forces for probably the remainder…  

Who's the youngest in the crowd.  

Who thinks they're the youngest in the crowd?   

Raise your hand…you're not.   


You're gonna see these changes play out for the rest of your career…I promise.   

And these are these are fundamental shifts.   

Because we have to get ready.   

We must reoptimize for Great Power Competition.   

And it occurred to me as I was listening to these presentations, that this idea, that we must reoptimize is one way to say it.   

And another way to say it, is we get to reoptimize for Great Power Competition.   

Imagine the alternative where leadership wasn't too excited about what was going on in geopolitics and with the threat environment and you've probably got the resources you need; we train you just go do your job and get better at it and we'll address the threats as they come.  

That is not an Air or Space Force that I want to be a part of.   

And we get to reoptimize because this leadership team is telling you, you're gonna get the resources.  

We're willing to change fundamentally everything about our services, so that we can get after the pacing threat the PRC and the challenges they face.    

What a tremendous opportunity.   

Now before I really talk about the activities that the Space Force is engaging in, let me kind of set the stage, cause there's no question that the Air Force and the Space Force have the same goals when it comes to reoptimizing.   

We know what we need to do. We know what the challenges are.   

But we are coming from very different perspectives and very different places in our history, and I think that's going to challenge us even more on both sides because we have to team together - we have to be integrated.   

But, if you'll go to my next slide, the idea that space is like any other warfighting domain, it is evolving, and it has evolved.  

Way back when I was attending AFA conferences as a cadet, we talked about space in terms of the strategic importance.   

There was a tiny number of spacefaring nations.   

It was basically the US versus the Soviet Union.   

Space capabilities were being used for strategic purposes for competing narratives in the Cold War, for providing our most senior decision makers up to the President United States critical strategic intelligence, and that was the capabilities that the space brought to military organizations.   

But it didn't take long after the Gulf War to realize how much more space could offer.  

And after the Gulf War, we started to see the value in space capabilities could bring to the tactical edge, what it could do for precision, what it could do for over the horizon communications.  

We talked about things like Blue Force tracking from space.   

We talked about putting data in cockpits to cut the timelines between what it took to get from sensor to shooter.   

We invested heavily in trying to build the networks, the data link structures to bring space to the tactical edge.   

But primarily, that was about just providing the services that made what the Joint Force did a little better.   

The next evolution, unfortunately, over the last decade or so what we've seen is now we have to recognize that space is a fundamentally different domain. It is a contested domain.   

Now, if we're going to be successful in meeting our military objectives, we have to fight for contest the space domain and achieve some level of space superiority, if we're going to continue to provide the services that the military needs that the joint force needs.   

And at the same time, make sure that we have the capabilities to deny the adversary, the PRC’s ability to target our joint force with their space enabled capabilities.   

They have built a network of sensors that has both increased the range and accuracy of their weapon systems.   

We have to be able to deny that. That shift to an operational phase where we have to now build and gain and maintain space superiority in order to continue to provide the services that the force has come to count on is what the real transformation is.  

And so, if you go to the next chart, let me just explain maybe by analogy, what that effort looks like.   

In some sense, we are trying to convert a merchant marine into a navy and Secretary Kendall’s used this analogy, I think it's a good one because it can be used in so many different ways to explain what we're trying to accomplish here.   

When it when you're using a merchant marine, you're basically taking advantage of a safe and secure domain to provide services in the most efficient way you can, the most efficient way you can.   

And to some degree, that's what your space military space organizations were charged with.   

The space domain was relatively secure. It was pretty safe.   

And our job was to provide services to the joint force from that domain. And we did it very well. And we did it very efficiently.   

And now we find ourselves in a contested domain, where the charge to the force is much different.   

Now as a part of a joint force, we have to be able to contest, we have to secure the domain, so that we can continue to use it and protect the joint force from space enabled targeting.   

Now think about what that analogy means.   

The merchant marine is very good at what it does, but you can't just tell them that they need to have a warfighter spirit.   

They just need they just need to think like warfighters and they're going to be successful in contesting the domain.   

They don't have the right equipment.   

They don't have the right training.  

They don't have the right operational concepts to do the task that they've been given.  

And I feel like that's what we have to embrace we have to understand, and we have to transform this service, if it's going to provide the kinds of capabilities to include space superiority that the joint force needs to meet its objectives.  

That's the transformational charge that's at hand. Next chart.  

I believe every warfighting endeavor should start with our people.  

Because it's one of our biggest asymmetric advantages.   

We may not have as many as other nations do, quite frankly, in their domains, or in terms of the other services here but we punch well above our weight.   

We have to be able to give our people the training, the education, the experiences that they're going to need to be successful in the high ops tempo, the high-tech environment that they're going to face.   

And the legacy process that we had the legacy developmental opportunities were good, but they weren't sufficient for this new charge.   

Again, we can't just tell the merchant marine do a better job. Be more like a warfighter. We have to give them those experiences.   

One of the activities that we're going to pursue initially as a part of this is redesigning the officer training course the initial skills training of our officers.   

It's my contention that it is very difficult to separate satellite operations, cyber operations and the intelligence that you need to understand and deal with the domain into the stovepipes that we've traditionally come, grown up around.   

If the satellite operator doesn't understand the networks that disseminates the data and doesn't understand how to provide that data in a threat environment, they are not going to be successful. Likewise with the other disciplines.   

So, we are building an initial training course that gives our officers all of those fundamental training, all of those activities.   

I believe that a cyber operator will be far better at their job defending the network, if they understand the satellite operations, and they understand the intelligence in the threat and how to ask the right questions to facilitate performing their job better.   

Likewise with intelligence, if you've been through the training as a satellite operator, if you understand the networks imagine how you view the foundational intelligence that's required, you can ask better questions.   

So, we're going to start with new career paths.   

We’re going to start with new training.   

And we're going to start with the officers but that's not going to stop there.   

We have to recognize that all of our operators and all of the Guardians are going to need similar kinds of training and experience different than what they've had in the past if they're going to be successful in this high ops tempo, very technically demanding environment that we're facing in the future.   


It really comes down to readiness and I thought General Allvin did a great job of talking about, you know, what we're trying to get ready for and what changes that has to make.   

When I think about readiness, I go back to my squadron commander days, and I think about the four elements of readiness that I had to report on every month.   

And for those that have been through that experience, you kind of have them memorized.   

It's the people.   

It's the training.   

It's the equipment.  

And it’s the sustainment and those are still true for the Space Force. 

Those are true for any force.   

No matter how you describe it.   

But the legacy force that we had our roots, again, in that merchant marine model, were built around efficiency built around a benign environment.   

So, the standards for readiness that we kind of held our forces to was different.   

It wasn't built for the domains that were facing, a contested domain.  

So, we have to look at our personnel.  

Do we have the right mix of officers, enlisted, civilians in our units to be able to do the kind of work that our workforce needs to do to be successful?   

Is our training, which for years it was sufficient to say that procedural training, procedural competency and operating the weapons systems was sufficient.   

That was what was necessary to safely and efficiently operate our systems on orbit.   

As soon as you put a red force in the mix.   

As soon as you put a threat in the mix, it radically changes your training.   

You have to have advanced training.   

You have to have tactics training. 

You have to understand how you work together in com out of com with other units in order to continue to achieve the kinds of effects in a contested domain when an adversary, a capable adversary is doing everything, they can stop you from being successful. 

That's a different training proposition. 

So, we need to build that training infrastructure, the test infrastructure to validate our tactics and give the reps and sets to our operators so they’ll be successful against this adversary we know we're probably going to face. 

Our equipment as I talked about, the merchant marine didn't have the right equipment to be a navy. 

Likewise, the systems that we built were designed for a benign environment. 

We have to redesign our architectures, redesign the systems to do our missions so they're resilient against an adversary.

You have to understand that they have to be resilient under attack, they still have to be able to perform that mission. 

And if you go to the sustainment piece, they, a lot of our systems have to be available continuously. 

100% availability and in some cases, even knowing that that's probably impossible to achieve. The sustainment models have to be there. 

So, when we talked about parts for ground-based radars. It's got to be there. 

When we talk about how we're going to do upgrades to change algorithms in our decision support software, that sustainment got to be fast, because the algorithms are gonna need to change fast because the threat is changing fast.

All of that are new standards. 

We have to rewrite the standards for readiness centered around a contested domain.

And then once we've written those standards, once we put the forces through that kind of training, those kinds of generation drills, then we have to figure out whether we're ready. 

We have to be able to assess, and that's from the individual all the way up to combined operations in a joint environment. 

Are we doing the drills? the assessments? the evaluations? the multi-unit exercises? the rehearsals? the war games? the joint integrated exercises? all for a purpose, a specific purpose building as we go to assess whether or not we are ready to engage an adversary like the PRC. 

Next chart.

Now we get to one of the more critical aspects of this, the sustainment portion of equipment is kind of a near term.

It's like flightline maintenance, we have to be able to enhance our capabilities quickly. 

But that's not the large changes the big changes, are we are we developing capabilities for the long term to continue to have advantages and maintain those advantages for years to come in the future?

Are we evaluating the future operating environment? 

Are we evaluating the missions that we're going to be asked to take on? 

Do we know how we're going to accomplish that? 

And over the first four years in the Space Force, we focused on some of the systems, we focused on making a resilient architecture and the kinds of systems we thought were going to be necessary for space superiority, but we weren't necessarily we didn't really have the mechanisms to evaluate all the other components that have to be in place. 

What's the MILCON requirement? 

What facilities do we need? 

How many SCIFs do we need?

How many units are going to be required to perform that mission? 

How do these units work together? 

What's the operational concepts?

That is what a futures organization can provide for you. 

So, we're going to establish a Space Futures Command that is combined to three centers, that starts to ask these fundamental questions that puts together a force that we can offer to combatant commanders that doesn't just have the systems.

It has the tactics, the training, the operational concepts, it is leveraging the right technologies to be successful.

The first center will be a Concepts Technologies Center.

It will evaluate the future operating environment.

What's the threat going to look like?

What are the technologies that the adversary is going to use?

And that we need to be able to use and how does that fundamentally going to change the nature of our operations?

How do we combine our tactics and operational concepts?

Think about the type of space domain awareness that we're gonna have to do out to ex-GEO, cislunar.

How are we going to do that? As we start to collect data on moving target indications, what's the battle management process that your Space Force will use to make sure that the data from the sensor gets to the shooter on operationally relevant time? 

This is the kind of thought process that's going to go through this Concepts and Technology Center. 

And when we have some ideas, we're going to have to figure out whether those ideas are good, whether they need to change, or we need to scrap it. 

So, we're going to build a Wargaming Center that helps us evaluate technologies and helps us experiment with new technologies. 

It'll help us validate concepts through wargames through tabletop exercises, we’ll throw away the bad we'll learn quick. 

It's a learning campaign to make sure we put all this together effectively. 

And then the third center I hope you're more familiar with because we are going to leverage the work that's been done at the Space Warfighting Analysis Center for years now. 

It is the data driven analytics that takes these ideas, puts them through the system, and allows us to use physics-based models. 

Modeling and simulation, high end data analytics, with PhD level analysis that says here's the right options to pursue. 

Here's the most cost-effective way to do this.

Here's something that can work in this future operating environment.

We're going to take all those together and that's going to inform our objective force, the force design what is it that the Space Force is going to need now in the near term, and in the long term to maintain that competitive endurance.

And the last capability the last part of this is projecting power.

This is about presenting the right kind of forces to our combatant commanders. 

So that they can be effective with the tasks that we give them.

It's going to come in two basic flavors.

One is the combat squadrons and combat detachments, that become our units of action. 

Now, in the past, we've had mission squadrons you might be familiar with second space operations squadron that was the GPS constellation. Right? 

It has all of the responsibilities in the past of doing the day-to-day operations of the constellation, as well as all of the organized train equip functions. 

And that worked fine when you weren't in a contested domain. 

But now we're in a contested domain we have to increase the capacity of those capabilities, those units so they can do the advanced training, do the high-end enhancements that are going to be necessary. 

So, it became important for us to separate out what the unit of action was from the service responsibilities of keeping that unit effective, and so combat squadrons becomes our unit of action. 

It is the employed-in-place concept that says this is what you get combatant commander to do the day-to-day functions that are required. 

We are going to retain some capacity our mission squadrons to do the high-end advanced readiness activities, and we will rotate them through a force generation model so that the people on the obstacle are both ready if we have to fight tonight against the high an adversary, but also can respond to those day-to-day tasks. 

And then the second part of this is we are going to establish service components in the combatant commands as the receiver of these forces. 

As the command-and-control element as the experts inside the combatant commands domain that allows them to operate at that commanders’ ops tempo with that commander's priorities and be and be able to integrate effectively all of the space capabilities into the plans.

Rather than being added on after the fact, we’re going to be there every single day inside those combatant commands, dealing with the priorities, the challenges, the opportunities that that the combatant command has to wrestle with. 

Only through that detailed integration do we think we can effectively present the kind of forces and effects to optimize for Great Power Competition. 

And then my last chart, simply rolls this all together and says, what we're really doing is building combat ready forces. 

That's at the top of the chart because if we can't do that, if we can't build combat credible units, we have no chance of deterring a very capable and determined adversary. 

Next, what we have to do is make sure that we are pursuing the right kinds of technologies we are exploring, we are validating, we are fielding the kinds of technologies that are going to allow us to maintain our advantages in space. 

And then finally, it's about the people, making sure that our people have combat competencies. 

They understand what it takes to fight and win in the space domain against a great power. 

And that's going to be a redesign of the career paths or redesign of training, education, and experiences to make sure they're ready for this fight. 

We're out of time. We have to be ready. We have to be ready tonight. 

And tomorrow has got to be more ready than today and we got to keep looking at enduring advantages into the future. 

So, with that, I challenge all of you to jump on board. 

We get to reoptimize for space. It's not that we must reoptimize for space, for a Great Power Competition, we know that. We get to reoptimize. 

It's this is the opportunity of a lifetime to shape these forces against the threat that's going to challenge our country the most.   

Thank you for your time.