April 13, 2016 – Lt. Gen. David J. Buck, 14th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Command for Space commander spoke at the 32nd Space Symposium Space Warfighters Luncheon on April 12.
Buck, who leads U.S. Strategic Command’s space component, is responsible for the global employment of synchronized space effects in support of national and combatant commander theater and global objectives.
During his remarks, Buck emphasized the dynamic nature of the space domain and the challenges which lie ahead.
“Space is no longer a boutique domain or the exclusive purview of a few space-faring nations; rather space is a common operating environment for some 60 nations, various governmental commercial and academic organizations and home to more than 1,300 active satellites,” Buck said.
Amongst those space-faring entities are nations which have observed the U.S.’s ability to leverage space effects to great strategic advantage and have been developing counterspace capabilities to counter that advantage.
“These potential adversaries have a vote,” Buck said, “They went to school on our advancements in modern warfare – specifically how adept we are at multi-domain integration. In response they are developing, testing and fielding capabilities to deny, disrupt and degrade our advantages in, through and from space.”
“Simply stated, there isn’t a single aspect of our space architecture, to include the ground-based segment, that isn’t at risk,” Buck said.
Faced with an increasingly contested, degraded and operationally limited space domain, Buck highlighted several efforts underway to preserve assured access to those space capabilities upon which the U.S military and, on a larger scale, the global community, rely.
For example, the Joint Space Operations Center, the operations center for JFCC Space, recently fielded a new crew position, the Defensive Duty Officer. The DDO is the focal point of the JSpOC’s protect and defend mission and charged with enhancing space situational awareness by maintaining custody of high-value assets and potential orbital threats.
“I was in the JSpOC a couple months ago receiving my daily ops and intel brief,” Buck said. “During the update Lieutenant Neil Torrez, the Defensive Duty Officer, provided details about a recent space launch.” What followed, Buck said, was the standard summary of a nominal launch with a payload and several pieces of debris deposited into orbit. However, one procedure was different. “You see, Neil – Lt. Torrez – continued to track all the objects to confirm they were actually debris rather than something nefarious.”
This new procedure was a response to lessons learned from more than a year ago when the JSpOC tracked what was initially thought to be a typical launch only to observe a piece of associated debris begin to maneuver. “The way Lt. Torrez responded is exactly the type of behavior we need, behavior that is reflexive, not reflective. That is the ethos and culture we must develop to be prepared for the future,” Buck said.