ORLANDO, FLA. — Gen. David Goldfein’s speech on Friday represented the strongest rhetoric yet on space warfare as an area that deserves special attention from the U.S. Air Force.
Goldfein, the Air Force’s chief of staff, told a large audience of active-duty airmen that they have to start thinking about outer space the same way they think about airspace.
In a keynote speech at the Air Force Association’s air warfare symposium, the general said it is “time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.”
It is not a question of if but when airmen will be fighting in space, warned Goldfein. And he insisted that the Air Force has to become more attuned to what is happening in space and look upon space as a key battlefront.
“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” he said. “And we are the service that must lead joint war fighting in this new contested domain. This is what the nation demands.”
Although Goldfein had made similar points in past speeches, this one stood out as more emphatic and stark about the role of the Air Force in space warfare.
A broader message is that the Air Force has to understand how to combine air, space and cyber to get the full picture of what is happening in a conflict, he said. Goldfein said the Air Force will have to play catchup as the cyber and space domains increasingly become “contested environments.”
Goldfein has been a proponent of “multi-domain operations” — the idea that, to prevail in future wars, commanders need battlefield intelligence coming from “all domains,” including air, cyber, ground, sea and space. “I look forward to discussing how we can leverage new technology and new ways of networking multi-domain sensors and resilient communications to bring more lethality to the fight,” he said.
To prepare to fight from space, the Air Force will have to invest in new technology but also in the training of leaders. Goldfein said he has charged Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, to develop a program to train officers and non-commissioned officers for space operations.
“We need to build a joint, smart space force and a space-smart joint force,” Goldfein said.
The narrative that the Air Force is more focused on space also is reflected in the budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. According to budget documents, the Air Force is seeking $8.5 billion for space programs — $5.9 billion in the research and development accounts, and $2.6 billion for procurement of new satellites and launch services.
The 2019 request is 7.1 percent more than the Air Force sought in last year’s budget. Over the next five years, the Air Force projects to invest $44.3 billion in space systems — $31.5 billion in research and development, and $12.8 billion in procurement. That would mark an 18 percent increase over the $37.5 billion five-year plan submitted last year.