Lieutenant General David D. Thompson, Vice Commander of the Air Force Space Command, joined a roundtable discussion earlier this month where he shared his expertise, calling himself a “jack of all trades, but master of none,” and excitement for the space “renaissance.”
“If you can’t be enthused and excited about what’s going on in space today, maybe you need a new job,” joked Thompson. His passion for space and technology was clear as he explained that the reestablishment of the National Security Space Council, paired with investments in space technology and innovation, are first steps to ensuring superiority in the space domain.
Alignment with today’s leaders across all branches of the government and the National Security Policy is where it all begins. The policy, published for the first time since 1999, declares that unfettered space access, along with the freedom of action in space, is essential for our economic and national security. It also further cements the space domain as a warfighting domain.
“For better or worse, space has become a warfighting domain,” explained Thompson. If war extends to space the military must be ready with leadership aligned to take action. Thompson attributes the increasing readiness of the Air Force to Secretary Heather Wilson, who was instated a year ago and, since taking the position, has not stopped championing space as an important warfighting domain. This desire to increase readiness has also led to additional investment in space and mission assurance for satellite systems.
“It was almost $7 billion dollars more that was added to the Air Force budget across the years from ‘19 to ’23,” said Thompson who went on to explain that $5.5 billion was also internally realigned totaling $12.5 billion dedicated to space innovation.
“That’s a huge step. That’s a major investment. We have more work to do as we always do, but it really does send a message to any potential adversary that we will protect and defend our space capabilities,” said Thompson. But that step is just one of many, as multiple important questions remain for the Air Force and DoD to answer.
“How do we produce efficiently? How do we produce effectively? How do we drive down cost? How do we learn lessons?” asked Thompson. One way that he suggested to accomplish that was to apply models that proved efficient within other sectors to space. By embracing these systems and models, the Air Force can more effectively and rapidly produce systems and deliver solutions to the warfighter. Thompson also championed the military partnering closely with the commercial sector to “provide capabilities that our warfighters need [and] do it quickly…do it agilely…and do it in the face of what is truly a contested domain.”
“This is a moment in history where we have the time, we have the resources, we have the support, and we have the directive to make a difference for national security space,” said Thompson in his closing remarks.
Click play on the video below to watch Lieutenant General David. D. Thompson’s remarks.