Strategic National Security Space: FY 2020 Budget and Policy Forum
March 20, 2019
Keynote Address by Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN)
Todd Harrison: Next I want to welcome to the stage Representative Jim Cooper. He is – represents Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District, has served in that seat since I think 2003. He is the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which of course oversees United States strategic weapons, ballistic missile defense, space programs, and Department of Energy national security programs. Representative Cooper also serves on the Committee on Oversight and Reform, as well as the Budget Committee.
Todd Harrison: Please join me in welcoming Representative Cooper. (Applause.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: Thank you, Todd.
Todd Harrison: Thank you. Thank you for joining us. So, you know, a lot of interesting things going on in space right now, so, you know, wanted to give you an opportunity to share some of your initial thoughts before we go into Q&A. And I’ll remind everyone if you want to submit a question go to the website and you can enter that. We’ll be watching.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, thank you, Todd. I’m delighted to be back. I make a practice of trying to be bipartisan, so I’m sorry none of my Republican colleagues were able to join. But I very much appreciated the prior chairman, Mike Rogers, including me in everything and keeping things on a nonpartisan or bipartisan basis.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I was inspired by Bill Roper’s talk. I thought that was a new energy and vision for the Air Force. Some of the developments – like, who wouldn’t want to be funded in three minutes? Like, that’s pretty powerful. (Laughter.) I have some kids who wouldn’t mind that. (Laughter.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: But this is such an important topic. And you and CSIS have been a real leader in helping the nation focus on this. Sadly, we’ve neglected some of this for some time. And I appreciated Bill’s positivity, but a lot of these issues have been lurking for 10, 20 years, and now we’re finally paying attention.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I’m proud of the House’s role in this because two years ago Mike Rogers and I proposed a Space Corps to try to refocus the Air Force on some of these important issues. That met with a mixed reception from the Air Force and from some of our friends on the Senate side. But then, of course, when President Trump weighed in with his Space Force proposal, which I thought was over the top, that did help break some ice both within the Air Force and possibly even in the U.S. Senate to create a more open-minded approach on emphasizing our space needs.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I think we’re in a magic moment right now for our country when we’re refocusing on what’s really important. I’m thankful that it’s not a Sputnik moment where we haven’t already visibly proven that we’re terribly behind. But invisibly, we are probably behind.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And I try to stress the positive as well as the negative. The world should be so thankful that we’ve given it things like GPS, where anybody for free on the planet can find out exactly where they are, precision navigation and – position, navigation, and timing are essential services for virtually everything, as Bill alluded to in his remarks. And also things like space traffic control. That’s an extraordinarily helpful service when there’s so much junk in space and even a tiny particle can take out a satellite. So that air traffic control function is sometimes overlooked, but it’s invaluable for these sometimes billion-dollar assets that are above our heads. And I think the world should be grateful for that, because the United States has been a very benevolent power in supplying these services. And the goal is to keep them safe for everybody on the planet, and to keep every nation’s satellite safe. So I see this as a very positive, focused – we need to protect our own, but we really need to protect everybody’s because it’s a global commons. And we need to treat it that way so that it’s good for the planet.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I appreciate, I say, your leadership role in this. I hope Congress can get out of the way of the good developments in the Air Force and in the services. A lot of good things are happening. And I’m excited about that new opportunity for us.
Todd Harrison: And you mentioned you and Representative Rogers two years ago put forth a proposal to create a new military services Space Corps that would be under the Department of the Air Force. You know, can you give us just a little bit of the background of what got you and Representative Rogers so interested in this issue, that brought you to that moment two years ago? Because, you know, you were out on the leading edge of this before it was cool. You know, what made you push out on this particular issue?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, I’d like to say that we were just Star Trek or Star Wars fans, but that’s probably not as true as it should be. (Laughter.) Mike had three terms as chairman. And our first term, unfortunately, was spent on DOE security, because some of our plants were not well guarded. His second term was spent on trying to make sure that our nuclear facilities were upgraded because, sadly, many of them had fallen almost apart from the ’40s and ’50s when they were initially built. Space was the next priority. And it’s obvious if you attend any of the briefings that we’re a little bit behind.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And it’s not just the 2007 Chinese ASAT test, which sadly really for the whole planet created, what, 14,000 pieces of junk in space. And when they’re traveling at 17,000 miles an hour, that’s a true hazard. And no one really knows how to clean that up yet. So why are we polluting some of the essential orbits in space. This shouldn’t happen by any nation. But it’s really more of the malign intent that you can see in some of our near-peer rivals. Why are they spending precious money when their nations are poor to do this? That should create doubt and suspicion. Now, we don’t want to assume the worst but, like, they’re expending these precious assets to do these things that really help none of their citizens.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I think ideally we would have taken space on earlier. We tried to give the Air Force the benefit of the doubt. We looked at their promotion roles and saw year after year it was mainly the fighter jocks who got to be general. And I love leather jackets and fighter pilots, but that’s not the future. Unmanned aircraft, as we’ve seen with drones, are increasingly important in the world. So we’ve got to pay attention to technology, and be up to speed, and not have the nation be in any way behind. In fact, we need a huge and safe margin.
Todd Harrison: And so you said that, you know, Trump’s initial Space Force proposal was over the top. What are your views on the legislative proposal that was just submitted to Congress a few weeks ago?
Rep. Jim Cooper: I think it’s way more modest. In fact, it’s about as close to our original House proposal as you can get. I think it uses some Pentagon terminology they’re more comfortable with, a Space Command, a Space Development Agency, apparently much like the Missile Development Agency. But what really matters is not the bureaucracy but the substance. We need to be able to acquire state-of-the-art technology and put it on orbit in record time. And I don’t mean Air Force record time. I mean faster than the NRO. I mean, faster than – because what matters is the threat-based environment. What matters is meeting the nation’s needs. And any obstacle that stands in the way has to be taken out, especially if it’s our own bureaucracy at work.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I was interested in Bill’s comments, what does he keep up – worry about at night. Well, I’m worried about Congress too. I’m more worried than he is. And CRs are terrible. Budget caps are terrible. And we need to clean up our own house. But we also need to make sure that the vast bureaucracy that is the Pentagon can function efficiently. And in general, a less hierarchical organization, leaner organizations, better talent recruitment, better talent retention – those things are essential for any vibrant, cutting edge organization. And I think we can, as the Air Force is showing signs of doing, move more in that direction.
Todd Harrison: And so we got a couple of questions from the audience here that are related, so I’ll ask them together.
Todd Harrison: So, Chairman – HASC Chairman Adam Smith, the Armed Services Committee, has said that what they intend to do in the Armed Services Committee is write a Space Force proposal that is different than DOD’s. And, of course, you have your proposal from two years ago. How do you – how do you think you can merge those ideas or what changes would you want to make to what the administration proposed?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, my guess is, from the administration’s standpoint, they mainly care that we call it a Space Force, whatever we’re doing. OK, we can do that. The House proposal, if you didn’t keep up with the committee vote, was passed out of committee 60-to-1 – 60-to-1. That very rarely happens. Now, we didn’t succeed, as we would have liked, in conference. But the seeds were planted. And most everybody I’ve talked to who’s been to the briefings are, like, totally on board. Now, you can quibble about this element of the bureaucracy or that, but the key principles, I think, are there. We’ve got to have an unrivaled space capability. And I think we’re on track to make that happen.
Todd Harrison: As – I’m getting a question from many people here in the audience. If you had to put odds on it, what do you think the odds are of some sort of a Space Force initiative getting through the House this year on the NDAA, and also getting through the Senate?
Rep. Jim Cooper: The trouble about the future is it’s hard to predict.
Todd Harrison: (Laughs.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: And this one, after the 60 to one vote a couple of years ago, overwhelming floor passage, I think the prospects could hardly be brighter. Now, the future is unforeseeable. There could be some glitch to come up. But I think we’re on a path here to achieve everyone’s goals, which is first, you know, greater capability for our country.
Todd Harrison: All right. Now, Dr. Roper talked about the Air Force’s emphasis on speed in acquisitions. And we’ve heard that a lot from other senior leaders within the department as well. This is a big shift from about a decade ago, when you had, you know, Secretary Bob Gates talking about how, oh, we need to do things cheaper. We don’t need the 99 percent exquisite solution when the 80 percent solution will work.
Todd Harrison: How do you view that shift in emphasis on acquisitions to prioritize speed, which may come at the expense of cost?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, for the historians in the audience, I think every year people have tried to reform Pentagon acquisitions, all the way back to the Eisenhower administration. And I’m not sure that anyone has succeeded.
Rep. Jim Cooper: If you noticed in Bill’s remarks, he made a glancing reference to the accelerated 5,000 procedures. Good luck with that one. (Laughter.) SOCOM and others, MDA, have used faster authorities, different authorities, to try to get around the 5,000 procedures. So you kind of ask yourself, why do we still have the 5,000 procedures? But there is so much inertia. You know, this is one of the most difficult bureaucratic problems on the planet, and there are a lot of equities that different interests have and different elements of the status quo. But that should never stop us from fielding promptly superior capability.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I was interested, because in the, you know, Pentagon proposal, by 2024 we will have a fully fielded Space Force. So in the time it took us to start and win World War II or to respond to Pearl Harbor and win World War II, we will finally be able to field one service. That’s faster than usual, but it’s still not what we should be expecting.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I look forward to working with everybody in Congress in both parties and with the Pentagon and with our industrial community to try to figure out a way to return to speed and quality, because nobody wants speed for speed’s sake. You also want affordable prices. So there are ways to do this. This is the most ingenious country that’s ever been. Let’s tap into that ingenuity in a more constructive way.
Todd Harrison: So another question from the audience here. One of the things that Chairman Smith has said publicly in recent days is that within the Space Force proposal, I think there are three four-star positions enumerated in that. And he thinks that that’s too many and it won’t reduce the bureaucracy.
Todd Harrison: What’s your view? And how can you remedy that?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, Adam Smith is a great chairman. He’s extremely knowledgeable, and I think he’s very fair on these issues. And it’s no secret that the military has been top-heavy for some time in virtually every department. Bureaucracies tend to do that. Who doesn’t want higher rank and to be paid more money and have a better retirement? What’s wrong with that?
Rep. Jim Cooper: But, you know, right now if you make any comparison to a prior point in history, we’re vastly top-heavy. So there have got to be ways to do that and be fair to people. Now, you need to give young people promotion opportunities. But in this vast pyramid, there have got to be better ways to do that.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And to me the number of excessive generals is interesting. It’s also important how long you’re on post at whatever your MOS is. And do you really know your job? And I tend to prefer the Navy model, where you’re on duty for six or eight years in naval reactors and you really know what you’re talking about. You have total responsibility, as opposed to the in-and-out two- or three-year thing when you parachute in. You really don’t know the assignment. By the time you’re an expert, you’re out of there. Like, how does that work?
Rep. Jim Cooper: And I want fair assignments. I want humane treatment of our personnel. But there’s nothing like real expertise, owning the project, seeing it through to the end, making sure it’s first-rate. And I don’t want to dwell on some of the negative things, but there have been some horrendous problems. And while some in the Air Force are proud that still the B-52 will be flying when it’s 100 years old, I worry about that – (laughter) – no matter how thoroughly it’s been rebuilt. And I appreciate the rebuilding efforts that have been going on. But, like, where are the new? Where are the superb? Where are the excellent? Where are the – and we’ve kind of been lacking in that for a few years.
Todd Harrison: Next question here from the audience is about the cost of the Space Force. And so the Pentagon proposal pegs that cost over five years at about $2 billion. And then the steady-state cost of the additional, you know, management and overhead would be about half a billion a year after that.
Todd Harrison: You know, since you obviously are in support of some sort of a Space Force, a new service, but many of your colleagues have questioned the cost, including Chairman Smith, among others. What do you think the right level of overhead is that could be sufficient for the new service, but also would not be so much that it would cause it to lose support from your colleagues?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, first, think what a vast improvement the $2 billion number is over the $13 billion number that the secretary of the Air Force had put out there. Now, both Mike Rogers and I thought that was a little bit of a gold-plated proposal, but we’re already headed in the right direction.
Rep. Jim Cooper: When Mike and I originally proposed this, we really thought there should be very little, if any, additional cost, because the Air Force is pretty well resourced already. It’s more of an organizational issue. When you have 60 people who are empowered to say no, but no one has the ability to say yes, that’s an issue. But that’s the way bureaucracy tends to work.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So we will be getting into the numbers. We just are getting the budget books right now from the Pentagon. The budget is late, as you know. And I’m not going to fault anybody over that. But we will do our best in the NDAA to have the 58th or 59th consecutive year of House and Senate passage of that bill. If there’s any element of Congress that still works, it’s probably the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And remember, when you’re talking about budgeting in this space, I would say this is the only part of the federal budget that we don’t get to set. It’s entirely threat-based. We have to be able to respond to meet and beat whatever is coming at us. So we will do what it takes. We must do what it takes. And the numbers you’re mentioning in a budget that’s $750 billion or so, even though, shamefully, 165 (billion dollars) of that is OCO – (laughs) – this is chickenfeed for what Bill Roper accurately described as an absolutely vital national capability; not just talking about the warfighter, but for all of our civilization.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I know some people who can’t play golf without satellites – (laughter) – because they need to know the distance to the green. (Laughs.) So this is a very important thing, and it’s – we’re well within the ballpark of reasonable compromise here.
Todd Harrison: Speaking of the budget, you mentioned the OCO part of the request. What’s your view of the overall budget request for FY ’20? So, you know, not just space, but the overall budget. And how do you think the House is going to handle all of the OCO for base activities that the administration has tucked in there in this request?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, for anyone who hates acronyms like I do, OCO, or Overseas Contingency Operations, was used as an emergency funding measure after the Iraq and Afghan wars started. And on a temporary basis, that’s very understandable. But 15, 18 years later, especially when base activities are included in that emergency funding, it really becomes inexcusable.
Rep. Jim Cooper: This is a harsh way to put it, but, you know, to have an off-budget element of your budget really means that you’re not telling the truth. And some of our near-peer adversaries out there are more tuned into our budget than we are. And perhaps our Chinese friends are paying attention that we are not really fully funding our soldiers posted abroad. I mean, we’re paying most of their bills, but they’re having to pick up the tab when they buy our bonds for some of these needs.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And by the way, one of the most distressing things is we are probably funding the entire Chinese defense budgets, because they have bought so many of our bonds – a trillion plus – that just the interest on those bonds can pay – (laughs) – for their entire defense budget. Whoa. (Laughter.) That is not – now, we appreciate their investment in our debt, but, like, this is not a good situation. But it shows overall how many of our fiscal policies have been woefully mismanaged. And we’re going to have to return to common sense in some of these things. And right now, neither party wants to talk about fiscal sanity.
Todd Harrison: And so another question from the audience here. It’s specific to North Korea, but we can broaden it a bit more than that. You know, when we talk about ballistic missile threats that the country is facing, and need to improve missile defense systems theater and homeland, what do you think the role of our space forces should be in that? Does a reorganization, first of all, does that help? And, you know, what are the types of new capabilities that we can or should be fielding so that we can better support that missile defense mission?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, when space is properly run, you know, it’s almost completely invisible and taken for granted. It’s our infrastructure of infrastructures, on which all of our networks really depend. So it’s a little bit like a plumber or electrician. You only need them when you’re really hurting. And I hope we never – our allies never have to focus on this capability. I hope that what is needed will be available on a timely basis. And that’s a well-working system – invisible, above our heads. Maybe you can see them twinkle at night – (laughs) – but other than that, you’re completely unaware when you’re depending on their services.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I think our allies should be very confident that – what did Bill say – that we have 46 percent market share of satellites in space already. And it’s not just the number of satellites, it’s the capabilities they’re on. And I think the number would be vastly higher if you looked at capabilities. But anybody who keeps up with this area should know that – who are you going to call when you need something in space? It’s basically us. And we got to keep it that way, and not let our margin shrink.
Todd Harrison: And what are your views on the talk about creating a space sensor layer for missile defense? You know, in part to be able to detect and tract hypersonic missiles, but also to do better target discrimination in the midcourse phase of flight. Is that a system you would support, a space sensor layer? And if so, do you think that should be under the Space Development Agency, as they’re talking about now, or should that be under, you know, SMC, the Space and Missile Systems Center within the Air Force?
Rep. Jim Cooper: On the first part of your question, you know, who’s against sensors? Don’t we need to know what’s going on, especially since the U.S. has been exclusively in space a benevolent power? We need to know, the world needs to know, what’s going on. I mentioned space junk already. That’s just the most obvious way. Some people call it a space fence. That’s a way to protect the world’s assets, and the world itself. If something is going on on the planet, it’s helpful to know. You know, every once in a while a meteor hits the Earth. The Chelyabinsk meteor airburst with the power of, you know, a large nuclear weapon over a city in Russia of a million people.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And that was apparently a surprise to most people. I’m glad it didn’t provoke a nuclear response, or any sort of response. But things like that happen. So being in touch with your own planet is generally a good thing. So I really don’t know anyone who’s against sensors. Otherwise, you know, do we want to be deaf, dumb and blind? I don’t think so. It’s good to be in tune with what’s going on?
Todd Harrison: And so where do you think responsibility for a program like that should fall, ideally?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Oh, the bureaucratic function is less important. I’ve been worried about SMC because for years, according to the Air Force, lots of billets, from lieutenant through colonel, have been understaffed because many Air Force officers didn’t want to go there, apparently because of a weak school system. And I’ve made fun of some of the Air Force folks saying: For 20 to 30 years this has happened and you’re going to blame our lack of space capability on the fact we have a weak school system in a part of Los Angeles? (Laughs.) But that’s how bureaucracy can work. Nobody identified the problem. Nobody solved the problem. And there are different ways to solve the problem.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Ideally, we need a good school system in all parts of the country. But if you can’t do that, at least do not injure U.S. space capability by having a domestic infrastructure problem like that. But, see, those sorts of things happen. They happen in any line of business. And somebody with executive responsibility needs to see that, notice that, and take appropriate action. But Congress is largely like a Board of Directors. We should not micromanage. But we should never fail to point out problems that are real problems that should be fixed. And that’s part of our oversight responsibility, that we need to be more diligent in conducting.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And it’s not just us. Many of these problems have been pointed out since 2001, the Rumsfeld Commission report; 2008, the Allard Commission report. But no one apparently was willing to take action and follow up. So you can still fault Congress for being slow in taking up this responsibility. But we’re doing it now. Let’s see it through. And this NDAA, I think, will be the one that sees that through.
Todd Harrison: All right. And as part of the Space Force proposal that’s been submitted to Congress, DOD is also doing some other reorganizations around space. So one is they’re standing up U.S. Space Command. But they’re also proposing this Space Development Agency. So questions from the audience here. So, first of all, in Space Command, what do you say to some of the arguments that people are making that, you know, why isn’t it sufficient to just create a combatant command for space – recreate a combatant command for space? Why do you also need a military service?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, the Pentagon has its own preferred ways of doing things. And in general, it involves, as you pointed out already, more four-star generals. And that’s fine. I want people to be rewarded for good work. But there should be – basically pay for performance. If you do a great job, fine, be rewarded. If you don’t, well, then maybe not so much. Command is the easiest way for the military to think about things, because that’s a little bit like the fighter jock attitude, the leather jacket and top gun and you’re cool. Space is a very different environment. And as you know, with coding and programmers and these unmanned vehicles, it’s a little bit more like the Silicon Valley software nerd thing.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And we need a career path for those people as well, because some of them can be extraordinarily brilliant but not necessarily love to do their PT requirements every morning, not necessarily want to laser off their tattoos or get rid of their earrings, or whatever. But what matters is ability. And we have to be able to include those folks in our military and reward them. So I think there are ways to do this. The Space Development Agency will probably get a lot of attention, but in general the Missile Development Agency has worked pretty well, again, as a detour around regular Air Force.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And then we forget that, hey, we should be fixing regular Air Force at the time because these 5,000 acquisition authorities are mind-bogglingly complex. But see, a lot of folks have careers that are vested in that stuff. In general, there needs to be a whole Augean stables type cleanup. And Chairman Thornberry and now Chairman Smith have been very much for acquisition reform. But this is, you know, our gargantuan task. But our military friends could help us do this, because surely there are people in the bowels of the Pentagon who recognize what needs to be fixed and could come to us with ways of doing that.
Rep. Jim Cooper: But for an outsider, especially one who’s acronym – (laughs) – averse, it is just an endless minefield of confusion and obstruction. Which, oftentimes, benefits certain commercial interests, because virtually every bit is protested now. And now that’s part of the process you have to build in. Multi-year delays after the contract has been awarded. Like, did this happen in World War II? I don’t think so. We need to get back to basics in quality and speed.
Todd Harrison: And on the Space Development Agency, the Air Force has pretty publicly expressed some skepticism about the necessity of it. And one of their arguments has been that, you know, the Space Development Agency would be redundant with other offices within the Air Force. What’s your view on that? Do you think it’s redundant? Do you think it’s necessary?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, Air Force basically has fought this from the get-go, and not been, you know, tuned into the Rumsfeld or the Allard recommendations. And I’m not faulting them for that. And turf can be a legitimate interest, but I’m really not seeing a whole lot beyond turf that’s really what they’re defending. We’ve had some significant slownesses and gaps in performance. And we’re not here to fault people, but let’s get it going here. There are ways to do this. So the person who most recently said the SDA is irrelevant or redundant will soon be leaving. (Laughs.) I think that will clear a path for more positive thinking.
Rep. Jim Cooper: What matters is fielding the capability quickly, affordably, and in a quality way, and we can do that. We must be able to do that. So, as I said earlier, whatever it takes to get to that result, we need to do. And I want to give the Air Force and the Pentagon flexibility and their preferred bureaucratic method for doing that. And call it what they want to; what matters is capability.
Todd Harrison: And so, you know, one of the things that Congress and DOD have done to get a little more transparency on space funding within the Pentagon budget is they created a new Major Force Program, MFP-12 they call it, for space where they basically aggregate all the space-related funding in the budget. You know, unfortunately, with all of the Major Force Programs, there’s not a lot of transparency on the outside to what program lines are being tagged and going in to make up that total MFP. I see Jamie Morin over here in the front row, so I’m going to blame Kate for that. (Laughter.) But you know, it’s a longstanding problem that there’s – you know, on the outside there’s not, you know, full transparency on what goes into the MFPs. Is that a problem for you? Is that a problem for Congress in conducing effective oversight, to know where the space dollars are being spent? Or do you feel that you have adequate insight?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, the problem of communicating with the Pentagon is a difficult one because, you know, in a vast bureaucracy there are restraints to communication. I’ve actually found that your work, Todd, here at CSIS has been among the most helpful. Like, when you plotted out the possible costs of different types of Space Force, that was extraordinarily helpful, and I learned that there’s possibly even something out there that could be more expensive than Heather Wilson’s $13 billion. (Laughter.) Who knew? (Laughter.) But I don’t know, is there something beyond gold plating? Is that platinum plating or something like – or palladium plating, perhaps, right? (Laughter.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: But think tanks can help us greatly by ferreting out this information, because sometimes the juiciest bits are the most hidden. And that’s sometimes the way bureaucracy works, you know. Congress hides the ball sometimes, too, so I’m not exempting ourselves from responsibility. But that’s part of the give and take, the chase, the hunt of oversight, is to find out – (laughs) – what should be noticed, because very few people are going to fess up and say, hey, I did something bad here, catch me, you know; or I made a mistake here, you know, punish me. And the goal here isn’t punishment; it’s high-quality performance. And whatever it takes to do that we can do.
Rep. Jim Cooper: This is America, folks. This is the greatest country that has ever existed, and our challenge is just to keep it that way. We didn’t have to found it. We – (laughs) – you know, all we have to do is keep the momentum going. That shouldn’t be that hard. And with the exciting stuff we were hearing from Bill Roper, that’s pretty amazing. I think there’s a whole new generational opportunity here to refocus on some of these things we’ve forgotten about. But for a while our nation abandoned big science. We turned our backs on space. We forgot the big, exciting projects of humanity. And this is an opportunity to do that, and to do it in a humane and safe way. This is a magnificent opportunity for a new generation. Let’s seize it, and seize it now. There are ways to do this. And even with all of our problems, we can do this.
Rep. Jim Cooper: To have all these opportunities put out for us, and you say the cost, well, might be 1 (billion dollars) or $2 billion. Sadly, in the Pentagon budget, that is budget dust, you know? (Laughter.) And I’m not saying go ahead and spend or waste that money. Let’s spend it wisely. But it’s incredible what can be accomplished and what needs to be accomplished right now, because a number of our most precious things are under threat.
Todd Harrison: So tell me a little bit about, you know, your working relationship with your counterparts on the other side of the aisle now the Democrats are back in the majority in the House. You know, previously, two years ago, when the Space Corps proposal was put forward, you were on the minority side. You were working very closely, you know, joined at the hip with Representative Rogers on this issue. What’s your relationship like now with Representative Turner, you know, who opposed – he was one of the few people who opposed the Space Corps proposal in the past. How is that relationship now? And, you know, how do you see his views on this issue?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, Todd, you’re being very diplomatic. You said he was one of the few people who opposed it. He was the only one who opposed it. (Laughter.) I mentioned that 60 to one vote; he was the one. (Laughter.) But that does not mean he is a bad person. That means he had the courage to stand up for himself and oppose the vast majority of both parties.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I think the climate has changed a little bit. I mentioned earlier on that when President Trump came out in favor of the Space Force that turned a lot of heads around, both in the Air Force and in the Senate, and maybe one or two in the House. But I can’t speak for my colleague. So far he has been a pleasure to work with. I was sorry – you know, this is our district work period – he wasn’t able to come here today, but we try to do things in a completely fair, open, and collaborative basis because what matters is solving problems for the country, not creating new problems because you’re in politics. (Laughs.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: So many of my colleagues seem so focused on creating new problems we don’t have time to solve the old ones. Because this is actually a fun job if you try to fix problems, but it takes a workmanlike attitude. And first you diagnose the problem, then you find a remedy. And there are ways to do this.
Rep. Jim Cooper: And so far, Mike Turner has been extraordinarily helpful that way. You know, his district includes Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, great research outfits like NASIC. He’s well-versed on a lot of these issues. He has been head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He’s got a good international perspective that way. There are really positive opportunities to work very, very well together. And as I say, so far been no problems whatsoever. So I look forward to that continuing because it’s for the good of the country and the world, and who’s against that?
Todd Harrison: And so do you think Representative Rogers would make a good secretary of the Air Force? (Laughter.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, his career is his career. As I learned from visiting him in Alabama when I went to the Talladega 500 – (laughter) – it’s a different country down there. (Laughter.)
Todd Harrison: So says the man from Tennessee to a guy from Mississippi. (Laughter.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well –
Todd Harrison: Alabama’s different, yeah.
Rep. Jim Cooper: It is different. (Laughter.) Now, we’re jealous of their football program, but – (laughter) – no, Mike is an extraordinarily great member of Congress. Now he is ranking on Homeland Security, which is an extremely important responsibility, and I think there are great things in his future.
Todd Harrison: All right. You know, the Air Force is pushing ahead with a follow-on to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. They’re now calling it – I think the name is National Security Space Launch. And you know, I wanted to get your thoughts on the acquisition strategy that they’re using for that.
Todd Harrison: So the phase that we’re in right now – I forget if it’s phase one or phase two right now – they have narrowed it down to three companies that are in it, and the next step in this acquisition process is they’re going to narrow it down to two companies and then they’re going to give a bloc buy – I think it’s over a five-year period – to just those two companies. Other companies that haven’t made it through this down-select won’t be part of that selection process, necessarily. So when they narrowed it down to three companies, SpaceX was not one of them. You know, what’s your thought on that acquisition strategy? And should it proceed as the Air Force has currently planned? Do you think it needs to be modified? And what do we need to do to make sure we have competition and assured access to space?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, launch has been a very contentious area, as you know. It’s been very much scrutinized, partly because of the hobbies of billionaires as they have undertaken space as kind of a side activity. We should be thankful for that. And one thing that I’m curious about is if the Bezoses do get a divorce, will there then be a his-and-hers Blue Origin program, you know? (Laughter.) I’ve heard of his-and-hers towels – (laughter) – but never a his-and-hers space programs.
Rep. Jim Cooper: I actually think while it’s exciting that these billionaires have this fascination with space and have been so helpful in funding a lot of development that otherwise would not have occurred and a lot of risk-taking that would not have occurred, we have to ask ourselves: They were all able to do this basically on their own dime, and sometimes meet or beat or exceed U.S. capabilities? Like, that’s a real wakeup call for us.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Now, as my friendly billionaires – we hope they’re friendly, but – (laughs) – you know, I look forward to the day when there’s a government acquisition program, whether it’s in launch or anything that, like, dazzles the private sector. Now, we are lucky in this country we have strong both, but for a long time now it’s been the government is slow. Our delays are so great that we’ll buy 20-year-old technology and it’ll be launched years from now. That’s not good enough anymore. And the speed, the focus of the private sector is something that we need to learn from. So I think there are opportunities here.
Rep. Jim Cooper: There was a lot of pushback on the selection process of the Air Force. I don’t claim to understand the ins and outs of that. The key is that we got a vastly superior capability in a hurry at an affordable price, whatever it takes to do that. You know, we’re not in favor of one company or another. We just want the capability for the nation.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So you hope that the program managers and the folks in the Air Force are making fair decisions. In some past acquisition processes they haven’t necessarily done that. We’ve had some hiccups and mistakes. So that’s the key thing, as I mentioned several times today – reforming the entire Pentagon acquisition process. But that’s too big to take on all at once. Maybe we can start with a service. Maybe we can start with an area within the service. And for many people this was not an encouraging mile marker or signpost for the Air Force in this competition.
Todd Harrison: So back to the space reorganization question, another question here from the audience – does it concern you that the proposed space force military service under the department of the Air Force does not include the NRO and other intel-related space functions?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Not only doesn’t it concern me, that’s one of the positive virtues of the proposal. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Best we can tell, the NRO is not broken. Don’t mess it up. Keep it out of the limelight. It’s amazing. There are many things that work extraordinarily well in the federal government but, unfortunately, for various rules we’re not supposed to talk about them a whole lot. NRO is probably one of those, although nobody should get a free pass forever. You always have to be continually scrutinizing what’s going on.
Rep. Jim Cooper: But it very much worried me when the president’s proposal wanted to include – wrap up all these three-letter agencies into one in space. That’s not a good idea, because they have benefitted greatly from flat management organizations, centralized decision-making authority, being able to put things up in space in a year or two instead of seven or eight years. That’s a huge thing, and then the capabilities are extraordinary. So this is something to very much be proud of and I wish we could talk about it more. But it’s a virtue that the NRO is not in this overall proposal.
Todd Harrison: You know, it’s worth noting that the NRO is one of the few parts of DOD that’s passed a clean audit.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Hallelujah. That’s only been a 20- or 30-year process, and one of the most embarrassing things when your own GAO points out every year that the Pentagon is one of the most risk-prone areas of all the federal government. Didn’t the Marines get a clean audit? If the Marines can’t do it, I don’t know. (Laughter.) But it’s just – it’s kind of amazing that our systems are so degraded and part of it is legacy software systems. Part of it is just stubbornness.
Rep. Jim Cooper: But, you know, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. If you won't measure it, then maybe you don’t deserve to manage it. And accounting standards aren’t the only thing, but they are a way of making sure that things are coherent and strong and we really need to focus on that. That sounds like a green eyeshade concern.
Rep. Jim Cooper: But the Pentagon has been a standout problem, and I think they only spent a billion dollars last year trying to get audited. And while they failed they said that was actually a plus, not a minus. Well, tell a Fortune 500 company that. (Laughter.) And that shows how vastly different the standards are of government and of business. You know, it’s just taken for granted in business that you do this and keep your books.
Rep. Jim Cooper: We’ve got to do a much better job of keeping the government’s books. OCO, as I mentioned earlier, is an outstanding example of that. That’s a shameful thing on our budget and now with the president’s latest proposal you not only double the OCO account to hide the total spending amount but half of it is actually designated as a base. It’s just – it’s like admitting your problem. It’s called base OCO now, which should be a contradiction in terms.
Rep. Jim Cooper: It’s like jumbo shrimp. (Laughter.) It’s just, like, what’s going on here. But that shows how out of control a process can become. In addition to the president’s, you know, yo-yoing, first the Pentagon was going to go down to 700. Now it’s up more, like, 750. It’s, like, that shouldn’t happen in an organized country.
Todd Harrison: I got a question here from online, and I’ll tell you that I hear this all the time. So I want to give you the chance to address it. The question is, would the establishment of a space force mean that the U.S. plans to use space for military purposes.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, people need to remember, Sputnik was the first use of space and that was a Russian or Soviet military operation. In general, for the last many decades, space has been entirely benign and nonmilitary. In fact, one of our problems right now is so many of our satellites are so peaceful they’re not in any way protected. We had hoped that space would not be taken advantage of. But with the Chinese ASAT in ’07 and some other developments, sadly, that is looking like it’s no longer true.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So we need to be able to have an extraordinary defensive capability, and possibly an offensive one. But let’s – so the U.S. are not the bad guys here. This is one reason I’ve been pointing out the fact that free GPS for the world, you know, free air-traffic-management control, which probably should be spun out of the Air Force and put in a civilian agency so it’s a little bit more like the FAA or a more civilian-oriented place.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So no one wants Star Wars. No one wants to militarize space. But what we do have to do is keep our assets safe and keep them safe for the world. And that’s an entirely benign and benevolent activity.
Todd Harrison: So a few budget-related questions here as we wrap up. I know we’re starting to run out of time. But it is budget season.
Todd Harrison: So what’s your view on the Budget Control Act budget caps? Do you think Congress is going to end up lifting the caps, raising the caps to a higher level, like they have in all previous years since the BCA has been in effect? Or do you think this is going to come, you know, down to the wire and, you know, use of some sort of an OCO gimmick to get around the budget caps?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Well, the number I’m hearing for defense is 733 billion (dollars). And the caps will be lifted to whatever would allow that. This, you know, problem between defense and domestic will be settled by people above my pay grade. Seven hundred thirty-three billion (dollars) is a very good number. We can live within that.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Sadly, I think the budget process in the House and Senate have entirely broken down. Neither the House nor the Senate are likely to pass a budget. But remember, what we call a budget in the United States really isn’t a budget anyway. It’s a one-year political fix that in no way obligates the next Congress, even the next session of Congress, to follow those numbers. And as I mentioned already, when you have OCO and other off-budget financing in there, the budget is really a shambles anyway.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I look forward to the day when we can get back to more orderly processing. I do think this year could set a record in terms of passage of appropriations bills. The goal on the House side is to have all the appropriations bills, probably using the minibus approach, to have them done by, like, June 30th. That hasn’t happened in, you know, a long, long time. That’s – now, we can’t control the Senate. No one can. (Laughter.) But that would be a darn good start for the House to get that out there, and perhaps might shame the Senate.
Rep. Jim Cooper: A little advertisement here: I had a bill – it’s the most unpopular bill in Congress – called No Budget, No Pay. But it actually became law in 2013. And that year, as a miracle, even the Senate passed a budget, because it turns out that even senators like to be paid. And it’s not just for budgeting. It’s also for passage of appropriations bills. That fundamental pay-for-performance concept really works. And Congress is one of the few bodies on earth, one of the few places to work on earth, where you can be paid and not do your work. In my opinion, that shouldn’t happen.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Now, we haven’t been able to make that law again. When John Boehner picked up my proposal and helped it become law, he mainly did it for venal political reasons. But if that were to be a permanent principle – and, by the way, this isn’t so outlandish. The California legislature, the New York legislature, it’s routine for them. If they can do it, surely we can do it. But that would ensure that the work of the nation gets done more on time and that we don’t have terrible atrocities like the Budget Control Act, because I think, as Admiral Mullen pointed out one time, the greatest enemy the Pentagon faces sometimes isn’t any foreign enemy. It’s the U.S. Congress when we refuse to budget appropriately and on time. And sometimes we make them live with CRs. You cannot run programs on that basis.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So I think that Congress is getting the message on this. And I think that this year we’ll have a pretty much assured $733 billion defense budget.
Todd Harrison: And last question from the audience. In the past, when we had earmarks, that tended to be the grease that made the budget wheels turn. Do you think that Congress should bring back earmarks? And would that help get back to regular order?
Rep. Jim Cooper: Earmarks can be managed properly, but it’s unlikely that they will be managed properly after the first year or so of reintroduction. We fought so hard – and I’m one of the strongest anti-earmark folks in Congress – to get rid of the – for example, the Duke Cunningham temptations or the Don Young temptations, because pretty soon these are not peer-reviewed, pretty soon they get completely out of control, and pretty soon they become a national embarrassment if not an invitation to corruption.
Rep. Jim Cooper: So in general, government spending needs to be well-policed, and no dollars should be spent that’s not worth spending. And to give each individual member of Congress a small slush fund to grease their own reelection – because that’s really what it’s about – is a shameful process. Now, there is an argument, well, the executive branch does it all the time, so we should have Article I powers to be as bad as the executive branch. Well, that is not a good argument in my books. Let’s clean it up on both sides of government.
Rep. Jim Cooper: But as I said, while it’s theoretically possible to police this, which was probably done 20 or 30 years ago, in modern times the standards have become so degraded that if you want a swimming pool in your district or a(n) interstate interchange across the country in someone else’s district, that becomes a suitable subject for an earmark. That is wrong. That is a misuse of taxpayer money. That erodes support for people paying their taxes when they see these abuses, because you know they’ll be highlighted by the newspapers. So let’s not do this.
Rep. Jim Cooper: But the pressure is growing because as people find difficulty passing bills they want to buy votes in Congress, just like the congressmen who get earmarks want to buy votes back home. This is wrong. This is not the way things should be done. I don’t want to be too much of a Boy Scout, but let’s have arguments on the merits and let’s have the best argument win, not the person with the most money. This is really a challenging moment for the legislative branch, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to resist this temptation.
Todd Harrison: Well, Congressman, our time is up.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Thank you, Todd.
Todd Harrison: I want to thank you for joining us.
Rep. Jim Cooper: My pleasure.
Todd Harrison: It was a real pleasure to have you here. And, everyone, please take a coffee break and we will start back with Secretary Shanahan 9:55. (Applause.)
Rep. Jim Cooper: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Todd Harrison: Thank you. (Applause.)
Keynote Address by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan
Kathleen H. Hicks: (In progress) – defense and national security work here at CSIS and hold the Kissinger chair. And it’s my pleasure to introduce Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan. He has been serving previously at the 33rd deputy secretary of defense since July 2017. And he previously served as Boeing’s senior vice president for supply chain and operations.
Kathleen H. Hicks: After Acting Secretary Shanahan’s remarks, he’ll be joined on stage by Todd Harrison for some back and forth. And then there’ll be hopefully time for some audience Q&A. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Acting Secretary Shanahan. (Applause.)
Patrick Shanahan: All right. Well, good morning, everyone. It’s certainly good to be here. And I just want to maybe make a few broad comments. Kath, thank you so much. You know, Kath was very involved with the National Defense Strategy Commission, did an outstanding job. And then Todd Harrison, thank you for the invitation. I think John Hamre’s not here, but you know, only at CSIS could we have these types of dialogues, which are really so important for, you know, these very, very critical issues as we think about what does the future look like.
Patrick Shanahan: And before I dive into my remarks, one thing I would just ask all of you to do tonight – this will be a little bit of help – say a prayer for our men and women in the military. Say a prayer for the civilians that support them. They do remarkable work on our behalf. And the one – the one word that I’ve learned – I’ve learned a lot of words since working with the Department of Defense. But the one word that I’ve really come to appreciate and understand is the word “devotion.” And they’re devoted to their mission and they’re just doing a remarkable job.
Patrick Shanahan: I’m going to tell a story, and then I’m going to talk a little bit about the Space Force. But let me start with this story. And it’s a story about making change and modernizing in the largest bureaucracy in the world. Sometimes people say the department isn’t bold or fast enough. But in just 18 months, we went from a phone call with two bipartisan members of Congress to a proposal establishing a new branch of the armed services, the Space Force. And I want to talk to you about that proposal today.
Patrick Shanahan: Representatives Cooper and Rogers got us started on this path. And I want to thank them for their leadership and vision. I also want to acknowledge the important role President Trump played in instilling a sense of urgency in the department, or what Secretary Mattis would call moving at the speed of relevance in establishing the Space Force as the sixth branch of the military. You only get this kind of action if there is a compelling need to move quickly. This was true for our challenges in space.
Patrick Shanahan: My goal, and the department’s goal, is to grow what we call our margin of dominance in space. This margin is now contested, and our legacy systems, as you well know, are not designed to operate in this environment. China and Russia already treat space as a war-fighting domain. China’s moving fast to grow their presence in space. Last year their government put 38 rockets into orbit. This is more than double the 17 that our government launched. What’s more, the space industry is undergoing a seismic transition, fueled by the convergence of commercial and military capabilities, decreasing launch costs, and an entrepreneur-driven innovation – innovation that impacts the entire space ecosystem from the hardware in the sky to the application of space-based communications, sensing, and precision, navigation and timing data on the Earth.
Patrick Shanahan: During this state of evolution, we can’t afford to lose our margin of dominance. What is vital is that we protect a $19 trillion economy and the systems our military runs on. As Representative Cooper said, if our satellites were attacked we would be blind, deaf, and impotent before we even knew what hit us. Everything from ATM machines to Zumwalt destroyers would be paralyzed. If you’re faced with threats like this, you say yes to change. And so we made a strategic choice to organize to ensure American dominance in space for decades. This choice to restructure has three parts – the military service, combatant command, and a development agency.
Patrick Shanahan: Let’s talk about part one: the U.S. Space Force. To move forward effectively, space needs an advocate. That advocate will be the Space Force. The Space Force will operate like other branches of the armed services, organizing, training, and equipping the force with Title 10 authorities. It will have formalized leadership, including a new undersecretary for space and a chief of staff of the Space Force, to focus on developing space warfighting doctrine and culture. The organization will also focus on professional development, developing skills within the force and creating a pipeline of space experts. It won’t be very large, between 15(,000) and 20,000 people. And it will have a budget the size of SOCOM.
Patrick Shanahan: Let me spend a moment and talk about U.S. Space Command, which is the second part of our restructuring. Space Command will change the mission of space from a support function to a leading role. This is not new. This is a bit of back to the future, since we’ve previously had Space Command, but gave it up after 9/11 for NORTHCOM. The commander will wake up every morning thinking two things: How am I going to win in space, and how will space help the joint force win in the land, sea, air, and cyber domain?
Patrick Shanahan: And I’ll touch on the Space Development Agency, which is the third part and, in my view, the pacing element. Our space presence will be enabled by new capabilities delivered by the Space Development Agency. There are roughly 2,500 active satellites on orbit today. American companies alone project they will add 15,000 satellites in the next decade or so. The proliferation is primarily happening in LEO, with small stats focused on mostly communications and ISR. But the low cost of launch is expanding access to all orbits. Additionally, in the next decade we expect to see commercially available, persistent surveillance of the globe from space.
Patrick Shanahan: We need to leverage this commercial space investment and tap into the advancements to help solve the next generation of warfighting challenge. There are different models for the department to follow. We can acquire commercial off the shelf. We can tailor commercial solutions. We can develop new technologies, or some hybrid of the aforementioned. And in parallel, we need our war fighters to experiment with new space-based applications. And there are three points I really wanted to underscore here.
Patrick Shanahan: The first: The unifying factor is the need for advanced systems engineering as we design for artificial intelligence, as we design to enable low-latency movement of data, as we design to connect sensor-to-shooter, and as we design to enhance exquisite capabilities. Second, if we do nothing – and I’ll just say this again – if we do nothing and maintain our legacy approach, at least 10 DOD organizations working on space-based capabilities and architecture will continue to develop bespoke solutions. And third, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recapitalize the department’s space architecture and integrate it to deliver new solutions at scale. Our rules aren’t adaptive enough to leverage this. We need one organization in the lead to enable a department solution.
Patrick Shanahan: So let me – let me conclude with a few short comments. These reorganizations all tie to our national defense strategy and the overarching need to posture for great power competition in space. But beyond this reorganization, the president’s defense budget request also includes a 15 percent increase in our investment in space-based capabilities. The Space Development Agency roadmap from the 1601 report has eight increments of capability and provides a path for buying down risk and delivering capability so that we can scale and take action. The roadmap starts with hypersonics, tracking and warning for defense against adversary hypersonic missiles, with the next step to provide targeting for our hypersonic missiles. The roadmap delivers an alternate PNT, so that we can operate in a GPS-jammed environment. These are just a few of the investments in our 2020 budget request.
Patrick Shanahan: The institutional changes and money increase demonstrate our resolve to move out and find a solution. Eighteen months ago, it was a phone call. Fourteen months ago, it was a rollout of the National Defense Strategy. Nine months ago we received presidential guidance. Last month, there was a Space Force proposal. This month, it is a budget. This is what it means to compete. The Space Force is a critical part of ensuring we dominate in an area of great power competition. Thank you. (Applause.)
Todd Harrison: Well, thank you for joining us here, Secretary Shanahan, for your remarks. I want to –
Patrick Shanahan: How’d I do? (Laughter.)
Todd Harrison: You’re given a thumbs-up. (Laughter, applause.) Now for the hard part.
Patrick Shanahan: Is this on?
Todd Harrison: I think so. Let’s see.
Patrick Shanahan: Can you hear me?
Todd Harrison: Oh, let’s hit the button. Let’s see. There we go.
Patrick Shanahan: All right. Everybody hear me now? All right. Very good.
Todd Harrison: Now they can hear you on the Web.
Patrick Shanahan: This isn’t the hard part. This is the fun part, right? (Laughter.)
Todd Harrison: Well, you haven’t heard my questions yet.
Patrick Shanahan: Eh, they’ll be fine. They’ll be good. (Laughter.)
Todd Harrison: So my first question – and I’ll remind folks here in the audience and watching online, if you want to ask a question you can go to the Web address you see here, aerospace.csis.org/questions. You submit your question and I’ll get it up here on the tablet. But, you know, as the moderator I get to go first with my question.
Todd Harrison: So a first question is, you know, when the president came out with this Space Force proposal almost a year ago now, he talked about it initially as a separate department. What you guys settled on is a separate service within the Department of the Air Force. Can you just tell me a little bit about how that – how the idea evolved and how you settled on this particular construct?
Patrick Shanahan: That’s a good way to start out today. So, you know, you can imagine if someone said create a new branch or a new department – as you all recognize, we have lots of processes in the Pentagon, but they didn’t have the “start the new department” process. And so a lot of this has, you know, been, you know, homegrown, and you have to think about what is the best organization construct so that you can go the fastest. And a department allows you to have complete autonomy. So on one end of the spectrum you can have, you know, full autonomy; on the other end of the spectrum you can say let’s maintain the status quo. And we started with those bookends and we said: Given the need for speed and then how much time you might spend just reorganizing, we landed in a place that said draw off the synergy of the Air Force, all right? And we have significant learning from the Marine Corps about how to have a service within a department.
Patrick Shanahan: The biggest thing that we’ve been working to do with the Space Force is focus on delivering capability faster. And it’s very easy in government to think about equities. And we didn’t want to start with, well, what are the equities? What are the structures? How do we draw a path to deliver maintaining that margin of dominance? And it really was all based on, you know, standing up these, you know, I’ll call it critical time-based capabilities, developing – doing the development. The Space Development Agency is about developing. It’s not a space acquisition agency; it’s a space development. So we said that’s what’s most important. And you could put it anyplace. But given most of the resources that are going to be a component or an element of the Space Development Agency live within the Air Force, keep it as close to that as possible. Space Command was easier.
Todd Harrison: And you know, what do you say to folks – you know, critics of creating a separate military service that say, well, if you’re creating United States Space Command, a combatant command for space, why can’t that be enough? Why do you also need a military service? Can’t we make Space Command kind of like Special Operations Command and give it some service-like authorities?
Patrick Shanahan: We can do anything, right? (Laughter.) I mean, this is – this is what’s – in terms of working on something, this has been a really great experience because we’ve got this big piece of clay that we get to work with. And a lot of the critics – so you have people that are at the subatomic level and they get into, you know, let’s move this little piece of the clay, you know, from here to there. I’d go back to the – when I came into the department, they said space is really important. And Secretary Rumsfeld back in the early 2000(s) tried to move the ball. So we’re talking about moving the ball. That’s the most important piece.
Patrick Shanahan: I’d go back to the – your – the essence of your question.
Todd Harrison: So Space Command.
Patrick Shanahan: Oh.
Todd Harrison: Why isn’t creating combatant commands sufficient?
Patrick Shanahan: Well, the Space Command will only get after dealing with space, but not any new tools. You know, the big – the big change is we woke up one day and space was contested, and everything that we had designed for was no longer as capable as we thought. You know, imagine being able to walk around your neighborhood and never having to lock your door, and one day all of a sudden you have to lock your door. And things that we have in orbit aren’t capable of that. And so you say a $19 trillion economy – that’s just ours, but you know, everybody runs off of space. So how do we protect ourselves? So the Space Command just gets that. We want somebody every day to think about are we defending the economy, and do we have someone focused on making sure that the military systems are protected?
Patrick Shanahan: The most important thing is, now, how do you replace that critical infrastructure so that it’s resilient, redundant, survivable, and has new capabilities because it really is contested? That is the most critical and pacing item. This is about retiring risk.
Patrick Shanahan: The structures are interesting. There’s lots of ways to go about it. But it’s mostly – we put together a roadmap, and the roadmap was about how do we leverage space to reduce threats to the United States? So the first element on the roadmap is how do we counter hypersonics that are a risk to our men and women and to the homeland?
Patrick Shanahan: Space is a fantastic place. You’re not geographically limited. We’ve built a space plan around the things we need in order to compete and win against China and Russia.
Todd Harrison: And so just last week Chairman Smith and the House Armed Services Committee – he said that, you know, oh, they’ll take a look at the Space Force proposal, but they’re going to come up with something different on their own within their committee.
Todd Harrison: You know, have you had discussions yet about what kind of changes they would like to see? Or do you have any indications on, you know, specific parts of the proposal they’re not happy with?
Patrick Shanahan: I haven’t walked through the proposal with Chairman Smith, but a lot of my interactions on the Hill have gone this way. In terms of how we view the threat and the changes we need to make, pretty universal about, you know, being more aggressive, leveraging commercial innovation, removing red tape, doing things for less cost.
Patrick Shanahan: The feedback I’ve received is worry about adding or building bigger government. That part has been universal. And, you know, I don’t blame them. I mean, I think, you know, we all want the same thing. We want a lean and a very thoughtful use of resources. But that’s generally been the feedback. And the conversations have been like this: Explain to us, you know, how you’ve come up with your costs, or help us to understand why this isn’t, you know, a redundant effort.
Todd Harrison: You know, in terms of the bureaucratic politics within the building – so this is something that has basically been in your lap since you came to the Pentagon. You’ve been working on it, you know, from beginning to end. How have you seen the bureaucratic politics evolve during this time period? You know, because when the Space Corps proposal came out from Congress in 2017, the Air Force very publicly opposed it. And now, you know, DOD is submitting a proposal that’s somewhat similar to that. How has that process been? And, you know, what are your experiences in dealing with the internal bureaucracy throughout this?
Patrick Shanahan: Well, the experience has been like every experience I’ve ever had where change is involved. You know, it’s human nature, any time somebody proposes something different, until you understand the why and the how, there’s a lot of questions that you have to kind of work your way through. But, you know, human nature is, you know, perpetuate the status quo. Something that is a significant change represents uncertainty.
Patrick Shanahan: I think when we started on this journey, there wasn’t a lot of definition. There was a lot of top-down direction. And as we’ve moved along and talked about the problems we want to solve and how we want to solve them, you know, there’s been less pushback. The pushback now comes in the flavor of, well, why not do it this other way? Or this might be a better approach.
Patrick Shanahan: But, you know, if you step back and think about what we’re trying to do in the department is we haven’t modernized in 30 years. The muscles we have aren’t from modernization. I mean, this is about doing something very different. And so the first reaction is, well, that’s not what we’ve been doing or we’re not resourced to do this.
Patrick Shanahan: So I think this is characteristic of the changes we’ll see as we continue to evolve things when it comes to, you know, hypersonics or cyber, so a lot of these – a lot of these domains. But, you know, this is our – this is our 30-year window. Every 30 years you decide you’re going to make a change and takes people – you know, you’ve got the fence sitters. You’ve got the people that really want to drive it and then some folks just never want to do it. But I think now you’re starting to see momentum because we’ve been resourced, because we’ve been consistent with our strategy, and because people truly do recognize the security environment.
Todd Harrison: And so a question from the audience here. You know, the House is probably going to be the easier chamber to get this proposal through in some respects since they’ve considered this in the past and voted on it. But the Senate is, largely, unknown what they would do. They haven’t actually debated a proposal like this in the past like the House has.
Todd Harrison: So, you know, we’d invited Senator Inhofe. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here today. But, you know, what’s your message to Senator Inhofe, Senator Fischer, and others on the Senate Armed Services Committee on, you know, why they should support this? Because they have been somewhat skeptical in the past. You know, what’s your – what’s your elevator speech for them on why they should get on board and why this is necessary right now?
Patrick Shanahan: Well, I’ll give you the elevator speech in a second here. But what I’ve – what I’ve found with Congress as a whole is a willingness to be persuaded. People have lots of positions. What I – what I’ve found in my short time here is that when we spend our time talking about interests, that’s when, you know, people are open minded to being persuaded and the – I think the compelling piece here is that $19 trillion economy and the military run on space and we need to have confidence that we’re really protecting that, and then we start to talk about how do we – how do we develop and field the capability and that’s really – when we sit down and we talk about we can develop it this way or we can develop it this other way, that becomes the selling point.
Patrick Shanahan: But it gets a little bit technocratic and I think for most people what they want to do is have their staffs educated that this isn’t – that we’re not – we’re not falling into some acquisition trap. I think that if I was to, you know, characterize the difference on our approach here, is that – and it – what we should spend our time talking about is, you know, how does this tie back to Space Command? If you think about what we’ve been doing for the last 30 years, it’s really more acquisition or kind of running our process. This is getting back to how do we do development. It is new muscle movement. So we’ve really – we can’t do acquisition. We have to do development. And if you said you have a small window – we don’t have 10 years to do this. We have – you know, the money is not always going to be there. So you have a window of time in which you’re going to do something.
Patrick Shanahan: So you fundamentally have to ask the question, do we reorganize over five years and resolve all our acquisition inefficiencies and figure out how to leverage the industrial base or, you know, would we look at this through the lens that General Schriever would look at it. What we’d do is we’d say, get people that have technical chops, who’ve had a history with acquisition, that understand a clear threat, and let them do their job, and what I’ve found in the department is when we enable people to go do that we have wonderful results.
Patrick Shanahan: My comment about 10 different architectural studies going on, why would we want to do that? I know what’s going to happen. We’re going to – we’re going to come up with, you know, six or seven and then we’ll end up morphing them over time and we’ll end up spending more money. We’ll argue in the near term about, you know, some bureaucratic costs. But the real costs of development is the area we want to keep our eye on.
Todd Harrison: And so speaking of costs, another question from the audience here is in this budget proposal it lays out a cost of $2 billion over five years for standing up a space force. That’s the new cost of standing it up, and some in Congress and outside of Congress have said that, no, they actually think it’ll end up being more than that. So, you know, what’s your confidence in the cost estimate? And how does it differ from the $13 billion estimate that we got from the Air Force back in September?
Patrick Shanahan: I think the Air Force estimate had just different assumptions. And I think over time it had growth factored into it. I’d say our $2 billion number is a good parametric estimate. It’s really more of a top-down number than it is a bottoms-up number. And, you know, for the purpose of moving at speeds, you parametrically generate a number. But in the department, we’re really going to do a bottoms-up approach to cost.
Patrick Shanahan: Cost grows if you don’t limit it. So to me it would be like we need to cap it. The – if we do the top-down approach in terms of, you know, normal equities of traditional structures, I think it’ll probably grow. That’s what normally happens. I think we have to be very thoughtful. But remember, this is much smaller. So when we – you know, when somebody says we’re going to start a new service, you start to think about, well, like, the Army, you know, with half a million people. We’re talking 15(,000) to 20,000 people defending $19 trillion.
Patrick Shanahan: When we make a mistake in development, we’re talking billions. So, I mean, part of this is – and I’m very sensitive – we need to be very mindful about creating bureaucracy, because it endures for a long time. I think we’ll get the cost piece right. We’ve got to get the development piece tracking sooner and more quickly.
Todd Harrison: Next question here is, you know, when standing up the Space Force, obviously most of the unclassified military space assets belong in the Air Force. But, you know, the Navy and the Army have some substantial space capabilities as well. So is the intent that you would move over those Navy and Army space capabilities? And what would the timeline for that be?
Patrick Shanahan: Yeah, this is the normal part of change where people worry about, because when we talk about organizing, it’s immediate. Well, what’s going to happen to me? Does my home office change? Do I – am I out of a job? Does my job move? And the way we’ve really been looking at going more quickly is against the roadmap we put in the 1601 report.
Patrick Shanahan: So I would, you know, at a high level say, in the short term, legacy is legacy. So what – why would we burn a lot of calories, you know, moving things that are working today into some new organization? At some point there’s some realignment that just makes sense. But it really is how, with new authority, and getting after the threat, how do we organize for that?
Patrick Shanahan: What I would argue is, within the resources we have today, there are a whole bunch of people, if we said would you like to join this team, they’ll kick the door down and say, can I join? And again, remember, we’re not talking huge numbers, but we’re talking about making a huge difference that has a huge impact on the economy that we’re protecting.
Todd Harrison: So, you know, next question –
Patrick Shanahan: You guys all look so serious. (Laughter.) This is a good day, right? Yeah. This is such a good subject. I mean, you know, this is – (scattered applause) – this is about the future. You know what I mean? We’re working on the future.
Todd Harrison: Next question is, you know, some of, you know, the differences between this new Space Development Agency and existing acquisition organizations like the Space and Missile Systems Center within the Air Force.
Todd Harrison: So how do you view, in the near term, kind of the division of responsibility between these organizations?
Patrick Shanahan: Well, we talk about it maybe at a macro level. I mean, you know, we’re still working through the details.
Patrick Shanahan: The – when I talk with General Thompson – again, what we don’t want to do is disrupt the work that they’re doing today. And General Thompson has been going through a transformation program called SMC 2.0. And the team down there continues to take cost and risk and shorten flow time. So hats off to them.
Patrick Shanahan: I would say there it’s – you know, whether it’s a carve-out of some of the capability that they have, whether it’s a drawing on the resources, you know, they’re an element of the Space Development Agency. What I think everybody here in this room should recognize is the talent and capability in the SMC is unbelievable. And as you go around the department, the technology and the talent is extraordinary. This is about how do we harness it in this – in this short term. I go back to, you know, what would General Schriever do, the – and that’s just our task at hand. I mean, there’s a scope of word that we have to undertake. We need to preserve the capabilities that are in place.
Patrick Shanahan: I mean, I think when people hear about the proposal, they think we’re going to drop existing structures, run away from them, and we’ll be in a freefall. That is not the case. This is about a carveout so that we can go faster against hypersonics. This is a carveout, so we can do more missile defense more quickly. This is a carveout so that we can draw – you know, the NDAAs, when you read them, it’s: Do things that are more innovative, tap into the industrial base, cut red tape of the, you know, DOD 5,000. We’re not going to do the whole space mission, but there are segments now, if we leverage less red tape and the huge investment that’s been made in commercial space, we can go a lot further for less more quickly.
Todd Harrison: Another question here I’m getting – seeing several from the audience, basically relating to the interaction between the Space Force proposal and NASA and human spaceflight. So I know from reading the proposal NASA’s not part of it, may not be part of the Space Force, would not be – you know, there would be no human spaceflight in it. But can you just elaborate on that, on – you know, that there is this distinction and, you know, would this change that in any way?
Patrick Shanahan: It does. And it’s – you know, it’s part of the calculus – the change calculus. So if you said let’s pick up NASA, let’s do all the intel organizations, let’s do legacy – I mean, we’d be dead on arrival. You know, this is – later on, as we are successful, people are going to want to hitch a ride. And if we’re not – I mean, I’d prefer to stand on our success.
Patrick Shanahan: We’ve had wonderful conversations with the intelligence organizations, and they go like this: Let’s technically be aligned. Let’s make sure, you know, we think about architectures. Organization, that happens – it’s always complicated, but let’s make sure in terms of the capability we’re going to harness together later we’ve laid the pipe and we’ve provisioned for those things. That alignment’s in place.
Patrick Shanahan: The arguments we’re going to have about lines and boxes on charts we’ve tried to push off for another day, not because they’re unimportant. We don’t need – we don’t need to have those discussions right now. We have to move out against some of these threats – and we can, independent of those discussions but with an eye towards how these pieces come together later. Success will bring those other pieces together.
Patrick Shanahan: And because there’s – you know, the – five years from now, because of what we can do with data in these new environments, these organizations are going to naturally change. So it’s about putting that in place. The other part will follow. I mean, it – you just look around the world. Every place where people start to have better information, their organizations change. So instead of having that debate, do the work and then that’ll naturally occur.
Todd Harrison: So, you know, speaking more broadly about innovation within the Department of Defense, some, you know, of the high-tech companies have shown a reluctance to work with DOD, to work with the military. Do you see that as a lingering problem, as something that, you know, the department needs to address?
Patrick Shanahan: I do. We’re real hard to work with. (Laughter.) I don’t know if you – if you – if you guys think that, but you know – (laughs) – it’s not just hard, it’s expensive. I mean, we – you know, for a lot of good reasons we ask people to produce certain information or, you know, use certain processes, but all those things add cost. And if you’re somebody who’s using their own money or investors’ money and you have, you know, the opportunity to pursue something commercially or with the government, it causes – it really does cause people to pause. So I would – I would say – and Secretary Lord understands – this is one of the things she’s working on, is how do we make it easier to do business with the government. But I’ve heard this from investors, entrepreneurs, small-business owners. It’s we – they’re very clear: we have great stuff for you to use, but it’s just really hard to work with you and it takes too long.
Todd Harrison: And so, you know, last question for you. So, you know, how are you adjusting to the new job, acting secretary? And what kind of surprises have you seen so far in this new position?
Patrick Shanahan: OK, I’ve seen a lot of surprises. (Laughter.)
Patrick Shanahan: When I – when I think about the job and what’s really important right now is continuity and being able to stick to the National Defense Strategy. You know, we’ve – I want to say it’s, you know, a year ago that we rolled out the strategy, but we’ve really been working to the strategy for about 18 months and we’ve been resourced to the strategy. And what I think you would find really encouraging is there is a tremendous amount of alignment within the department. I think it’s not a – it’s not a – like, the biggest surprise it’s the thing that, you know, gets me up in the morning and makes me really excited is we can – we can win this game. I mean, we have – we have the people and we have the resources.
Patrick Shanahan: You know, there’s a lot – as everyone knows, you pick up the newspaper, there’s a lot going on, you know, in the world today, and especially in this – in this town. I’m really encouraged by the talent and the opportunity that we have in front of us. We’ll push through all the – all the – all the challenges. I mean, that’s just – that’s life in a very complicated world. But I think the biggest surprise for me is the commitment and the unwavering dedication to implementing the National Defense Strategy.
Todd Harrison: Yeah. Secretary, I know our time is up. I want to thank you for joining us here at CSIS.
Todd Harrison: And, folks, please keep your seats until the secretary’s had a chance to exit the building.
Patrick Shanahan: All right, great. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)