Space plays an important role in strategic deterrence and is, in fact, a priority for U.S. Strategic Command. However, in a recent talk, Air Force General John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, warned that the U.S. military “desperately needs” speed and innovation to maintain an advantage over adversaries.
“What really worries me the most is I’m worried that the nation won’t be able to go fast enough to keep up with our adversaries anymore,” Hyten said during his talk for the Mitchell Institute Space Breakfast Series at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on June 20, 2017.
In the past, military acquisition and innovation moved fast. Hyten explained that the nuclear submarine was developed in just four years. Today, a military advancement takes “four times as long [and is] four times as expensive for half the capability,” he said.
Hyten pointed to a broken acquisition process as the root of the issue, saying no Pentagon acquisition delivers on time and on budget any more. “This is not an indictment of the acquisition community. It’s not an indictment of the political process. It’s not an indictment of our budget process. It’s an indictment of every one of us because we’re all part of that,” he explained.
Hyten compared the military’s need for speed and innovation to achieve strategic deterrence, with the commercial sector’s need for speed and innovation to achieve a competitive advantage. He said that a commercial satellite company would go out of business if it couldn’t build and deliver a wideband commercial satellite in less than three years. Similarly, the military will lose its strategic deterrence if it can’t stay on the cutting edge.
One solution Hyten proposes is to leverage commercial capabilities where available. Intelsat EpicNG, for example, delivers cost efficient, high-throughput satellite (HTS) connectivity. The global fleet of geosynchronous satellites can achieve high-data rates and beam switching for comms-on-the-move and other mobile applications. With HTS, the military could support more sensors on unmanned aerial systems, full motion video, and improved situational awareness.
No single solution is going to improve the speed of innovation. In addition to fixing a broken acquisition process, the military will need to avoid building what’s already commercially available. To hear more from Hyten and the change he’d like to see at U.S. Strategic Command, watch the video below.