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Old 04-23-2018, 11:55 AM
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Arrow Changes in military space put Colorado Springs at 'epicenter' of a revolution, leader

Changes in military space put Colorado Springs at 'epicenter' of a revolution, leaders say
By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: April 23, 2018

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) Radical changes in how the military views space, a new system for rapidly purchasing cutting-edge technologies and a push to mine small businesses for ideas were in the spotlight at the 34th annual Space Symposium at The Broadmoor last week.

Leaders say it's the biggest shift in decades in how America approaches space. And from military brass to business types, it will have a large impact in the Pikes Peak region.

"Colorado Springs is at the epicenter of this revolution," explained Brig. Gen. John Shaw as he addressed a Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC gathering during the closing hours of the symposium.

For businesses here, it is the happiest kind of revolution a nearly $8 billion boost in projected space spending for the Air Force alone in the next five years.

"It's great for Colorado," said Jay Lindell, who oversees aerospace and military programs from the state's Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The change is being driven by the growing realization that America's titanic advantage in military space programs has slipped. Major powers Russia and China are aggressively pursuing military satellite programs and building weapons that can shoot down or jam American military satellites.

Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Jay Raymond said fear of war spreading to space has the White House, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies focusing on space.

"We are embracing space superiority like never before," he said.

Big pieces of the shift remain unclear. The White House has signaled that it could back a move to break military space programs into a separate service branch. The Air Force spent much of the Space Symposium working to show that it is stepping up to the new challenges, making a new "space force" unnecessary.

That kind of top-level change, though, won't impact the business bonanza that some see heading for Colorado Springs, which is loaded with 240 aerospace and defense contractors.

Most of those Colorado Springs companies are small, and it's now good to be the little guy.

"For the first time in years, the Air Force is looking to small and medium companies," said Kevin O'Neil, who owns Braxton Technologies, a satellite software firm, and who founded Catalyst Campus, a downtown incubator for technology firms.

Last week, O'Neil hosted Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson at the campus off Pikes Peak Avenue. He said the Air Force is enthusiastic about embracing new technologies coming from Colorado Springs and the Pentagon is showing eagerness to cut checks.

Wilson outlined the new approach in a speech Tuesday at the Space Symposium.

"When it comes to national security, we need the ideas and expertise in American industry," she said. "Our potential adversaries are innovating and modernizing faster than we are."

The move toward small and nimble contractors is a big shift for an industry that has been dominated by giants like Boeing and Lockheed.

The mega-contractors built the systems the military has grown to rely on in battle for navigation, targeting, intelligence and communications. But those systems were built at a time when America didn't have to fear a war in space, Wilson said.

"We built exquisite glass houses in a world without stones," she told a symposium crowd.

Now, the Air Force is re-engineering its Space and Missile Systems Center in California to aggressively chase new technologies. New purchasing authorities allow the Air Force to cut multimillion dollar checks to drive experimental programs without traditional red tape.

The Air Force is looking for big satellites that are hardened against attacks, small satellites that can easily replace bigger ones knocked out in war and highly-maneuverable space craft that can dodge attacks.

And the Air Force wants the new technology delivered yesterday.

"As we develop these new systems, speed matters," Wilson said.

O'Neil said the need for speed gives an advantage to small firms like the majority of defense businesses in Colorado Springs. Small companies can build products with less paperwork and don't have to worry about disrupting the systems put in place by the massive companies that have dominated the space business for two generations.

"We can think outside the box," he said.

Lindell said while small companies may lead the revolution in space, it's not all bad news in the boardrooms of the big players.

Companies like Boeing, Lockheed and United Launch Alliance, major firms that have made Colorado the nation's 2nd largest aerospace economy, still have the manufacturing horsepower and intellectual capital to turn ideas from small firms into game-changing reality.

"Little guys feed the big guys," Lindell explained.

That means ripples from Colorado Springs could bring statewide waves of change to the space industry.

"It will take a while, but in the long run, we will see an advantage," he said.

Meanwhile, airmen in Colorado Springs are already changing how the military approaches space.

The National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs has brought together intelligence agencies and military experts to develop the plans that could be used if war hits space.

Raymond calls it "sheet music" that will keep American satellites safe.

Raymond also announced a string of "space flag" exercises that will prepare airmen and America's allies to react to threats in orbit.

Wilson and Raymond signaled a new international approach to space warfare, with American allies from Europe to Asia joining American training programs and war games. The new efforts are all housed in the Pikes Peak region.

"We're building up a training structure here that we've never had before," Shaw told the Chamber of Commerce crowd.

But Shaw also delivered a warning: Colorado Springs could lose momentum as easily as it has gained an advantage in America's new military space race.

"I think it's the start of something really special," Shaw said. "But you're going to have to evolve to keep pace."

Reported by 2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Visit The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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