Air Force space leaders deliver positive report
Two of the nation’s top space professionals echoed each other as they delivered an upbeat message to industry and military space experts on the final day of the National Space Symposium Thursday at the Broadmoor Hotel.


By Tech. Sgt. James A. Rush, AFSPC News Service
Posted Friday, April 8, 2005

  
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 8, 2005) – Two of the nation’s top space professionals echoed each other as they delivered an upbeat message to industry and military space experts on the final day of the National Space Symposium Thursday at the Broadmoor Hotel.

General Lance W. Lord, AFSPC commander, met with press representatives during a round-table discussion. During the questioning, he elaborated on his Tuesday speech about maintaining the United States’ lead in space. In a separate event, Lt. Gen. Brian A. Arnold, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, provided an update on progress the command is making in its systems acquisition process.

Throughout the four-day symposium, General Lord repeatedly stated the Air Force’s space acquisition process is not broken. “Broken to me is something going wrong and you not knowing what it is,” he said Thursday.

The general wants to see faster cycle times for space systems currently being acquired and he’s looking to civilian success stories, like XM radio, to develop a program model. “There’s a lot we can learn from the civilian community,” he said.

General Arnold’s comments echoed the Air Force’s top space officer.

“All space programs are not broken. If they were, you wouldn’t have 40 launches in a row,” General Arnold said. “This has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears and it’s a combination of effort by industry and the government.”

General Arnold referred to the Air Force’s unbroken string of successful launches going back to May 1999. The improvement is remarkable considering the program’s troubles peaked with six failures in 1998 and 1999 costing more than $3 billion in hardware, he said.

 

“In terms of mission success, folks it’s an ‘A.’ I don’t think anyone could deny that,” he said. At the other end of the self-graded spectrum, “in cost estimating capability, ‘C-.’ We still have some work to do.”

 

This and other problems led to an in-depth review of acquisition procedures culminating in a review by an independent panel in 2003. The “Tom Young Panel” was critical of an undisciplined system that placed cost ahead of mission success and worked with unrealistic estimates and budgets. Other observations were a serious erosion of the government’s acquisition capability and failure by the space industry to implement proven program management and system engineering processes.

“This was a very rigorous assessment by an outside person that has the right skill set to really know and understand where in this space business we are,” General Arnold said.

One year later, Mr. Young found the system much improved.

Discipline returned with changes in the Air Force’s space leadership structure bringing with it a focus on mission assurance, General Arnold said. Industry had reintroduced necessary standards and was benchmarking its best practices as well. Progress was made in getting better cost estimates and in the overall space acquisition process too. The general believes there is still ground to cover, but the Air Force has identified what must be done.

“A change in culture takes time. We need to give ourselves a couple of years,” General Arnold said. A report card offered by General Arnold gave attendees a snapshot of where he feels Air Force space systems grade out.

“In terms of mission success, folks it’s an ‘A.’ I don’t think anyone could deny that,” he said. At the other end of the self-graded spectrum, “in cost estimating capability, ‘C-.’ We still have some work to do.”

Assessments in other areas, including accountability, teamwork, systems engineering, training and experience, fell between these marks. Overall, the general was upbeat in describing the current capabilities of Air Force space operations.

“Every time we launch a rocket or satellite into orbit, we know that it’s providing tremendous capability to the warfighter and the end users, that young kid walking on the streets of Mosul needs that capability,” he said. “That’s what drives us and that’s what drives industry. We don’t just build these things to build them, we built them to satisfy a combat capability and no other force on the face of the planet has the capability that we provide in space. We never will go to war again without all of the great things we provide from space and we’re very proud to be a part of that.”


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