Earlier this summer, Under Secretary of the Air Force Peter Teets and I outlined for Congress our strategy to develop the professional Space Cadre the nation needs to acquire and operate future Space systems. We in Air Force Space Command have an aggressive career field tracking plan, matched with an educational plan, to move Spacepower forward. Here’s an overview of our first steps, so you can understand how the plan will affect you.
First, we’ve identified every individual who qualifies as a “Space Professional,” and then created a method to record and track your unique experience that differentiates you from all other AF specialties. Congress initially focused solely on the officer corps, but we quickly expanded the definition to include a Total Force ensemble of enlisted members and government civilians, as well as Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members.
Believe it or not, resolving who is and who is not included has been one of our toughest challenges in moving forward. At this point, we define “Space Professionals” as all specialties that research, design, develop, acquire, operate, sustain or enhance our Space systems. This includes a broad range of career fields such as communications, intelligence, maintenance, logistics, weather and a host of others. A subset of this overall group is referred to as the “Space Cadre” and it consists of the scientists, engineers, program managers and operators who are principally responsible for taking our military Space systems from “concept to employment.” This smaller group is the focus of our initial efforts, and so far we have identified nearly 10,000 members. As we continue to evolve, individuals from other career fields may well migrate into the Cadre.
Along with identifying who is in the Space Cadre, we developed a process to track people’s unique Space expertise, based on nine distinct categories of “Space Experience Codes” or SPECs. The nine SPECs are: Satellite Systems, Nuclear Systems (e.g., ICBMs), Spacelift, Missile Warning, Space Control, Intelligence/Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Kinetic Effects (e.g., Ballistic Missile Defense), Space Warfare Command and Control (e.g., AOCs), and a general category for all other Space experience. To date, we have evaluated more than 7,000 active duty officer and enlisted records and documented each individual’s history of Space Experience Codes along with their current level of certification.
The next step involved development of a Space education continuum, specifically targeted to members of the Space Cadre and offered at recurring points throughout their careers. Similar to PME, these courses are designed to prepare people for progressively higher levels of responsibility. By periodically bringing members of the Cadre together, the Space education continuum will also serve to help nurture a stronger sense of “Space culture,” which was a particular area of concern for the 2001 Space Commission. So far, the catalogue of courses includes Space 100, Space 200, Space 300 and Advanced Space Training for our various operational Space systems.
To tie all of these education and training initiatives together, we are moving forward on the standup of a “National Security Space Institute.” Our goal is that the institute will transform our existing Space Operations School into a DoD-wide center of excellence for Space academic training. In addition, we will partner with a consortium of civilian institutions of higher learning to leverage their existing academic expertise in the areas necessary to develop our Space Professional Community.
We already have Space Professionals integrated and bringing Space capability to the Combatant Commanders and Combat Air Forces. Approximately 135 individuals have graduated from the Space Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis AFB, Nevada. They are integrated throughout the Air Force providing Space expertise in and out of theater. We have roughly 500 additional people that have experience with Space integration work in theater and we have sent more than 1,600 personnel from AFSPC to the theater for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
That’s where we’ve been and where we are going. We’ve taken the initiative to step forward smartly, but nothing happens overnight. We’ve still got a great deal of work ahead of us and it will take everyone’s help. Space systems and capabilities are integral to our success in fighting today’s battles and the linchpin to all planning and execution for success in tomorrow’s battles. Your contribution to the fight, and that of every member of the Space Professional Development community, is vital to our success.
Many of you have already seen the Space Professional Development presentation given by our Headquarters Space Professional team. For those of you who haven’t, they’ll be coming to your base soon. Please take advantage of this opportunity to ask the tough questions and get on board the Space Professional Development train.
For details on SPECs and school courses, see: https://halfway.peterson.af.mil/spacepro/Documents/STW%20Website_files/frame.htm