Broadcast 3461 Lt. Gen. (RET) USAF Steven Kwast

The Space Foundation Conference

14 Feb 2020 Lt. General Steven Kwast, USAF (RET)
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Guest:  Retired USAF Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast;  Topics:  US Space Force status, Space Force vision and leadership, Chinese and other space player challenges, the Space Force mission plus capabilities and more.

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We welcomed Steve Kwast back to the show to update us on the newly created Space Force under USAF umbrella.  In addition, we talked about space economic and defense risks and strategies, the right space vision, needed capabilities plus competition and more in the space domain.  The space mission was stressed as being a priority and most important.  Our program was a one segment 93 minute discussion with our sponsor messages coming at the very end of the program. 

Our discussion started by asking General Kwast for an update on the newly created Space Force, plus the news have been getting about the initial budget.  Our guest spent a good portion of time updating us on The Space Force, budget issues, the congressional act that created the Space Force, current Space Force place holding leaders for the first year and more. He was critical of the approach being taken so far but he did explain it given it was part of the USAF, the AF culture, and just starting out.  The Kwast vision for The Space Force and space leadership for the future seemed to be very different from that of the Space Force but our guest was optimistic that the space force will evolve in a good direction.  This was a topic our guest spent much time on so do pay attention.  Steve spent time describing the attributes and characteristics of leadership and the needed vision for the Space Force plus the why behind what he was advocating.  After you have heard his vision for The Space Force, please let us know what you think by posting on the blog. 

Much time was spent on China, even to the point of a listener asking our guest if the Space Force had been created for the sole purpose of dealing with China.  Steve said no but listen to his complete response to this listener question.  There were many reasons for the focus on China.  For example, China shows an appreciation for space, global economic dominance, and military high ground plus they stay focused working toward their goals and objectives.  Our guest talked about the 30 year track record of accomplishment regarding China in space.  He compared the Chine space plan, vision and action to what we have been doing.  Once again, your thoughts on this comparison posted on our blog for this show would be very much appreciated.

In response to a listener question, our guest talked about Congress having only appointed an interim leader of the Space Force who has not yet been confirmed by congress.  Congress and the President will consider new leadership for the Space Force in a year.  Once again, our guest took this opportunity to describe the type of leadership and vision he wanted for the Space Force.  Our guest talked about the bi-partisan commitment to The Space Force, especially since Congress saw classified material about China and other space actors.  I asked our guest about people who might be listening to his recommendations and leadership ideas, his concept of the needed space mission, needed capabilities, and of course all backed up by the broad space and economic vision talked about by our guest.  As always, we would like to know your views so do post them on our blog.

Our guest used many examples to help explain or clarify issues and much of what he was saying. For example, he talked about the emerging role of aircraft in combat dating from World War 1.  He had another analogy regarding the role of history and Hitler in Word War 2.  He frequently talked about the need to dominate space and dominate economics with the result of dominating growth.  Listen to the why behind he supports such dominance.  Hint:  He talked about dominance to assure American moral, ethical, legal and cultural values being in place to benefit everyone equally in space.  This was an important theme during the discussion.

Several callers checked in with us along with emails from listeners with various questions.  In response to one email question, our talked about visionary leadership that was not always appreciated at the time it was offered but then later it made a huge difference for the good.  His example was the Billy Mitchell case.   If you are not familiar with the Billy Mitchell story for the Air Force, check it out here:  www.historynet.com/the-court-martial-of-colonel-bill-mitchell.htm.  Steve also brought up modern 5G issues with China, the US, and European companies.  Listen to how he described the US in this discussion.

John from Ft. Worth called and in this particular discussion, Gen. Kwast said he thought of the space force as a space guardian type of entity as that matched his vision which had been talking about with us.  With John, the general took us through the various codes and titles of US law to help show the interaction of space with our lives.  He also talked about the space force being aimed at avoiding war, again, the guardian role. The role of a peacemaker.  John talked about the importance of Earth to GEO space and together they talked more strategy along with how the Chinese space strategy was seen.  Steve said the first to have dominant maneuverability outside the gravity well will have economic dominance.  Listen to his examples going back to the earl 1950's with Eisenhower and the army.  This dealt with the nuclear triad for defense including submarines and USA. Our guest added that we need to technologically and economically develop cislunar space.  Steven mentioned how China had accomplished all its goals set forth over 30 years as was indicated earlier in our discussion.  I then asked our guest if he though the US was standing still in this competition.

General Kwast said we were not standing still but he did have much more to say about our progress with space economics, space struggles and competition.  He talked about telecommunications and the state of intellectual property (IP) as a challenge.  As an example, he again brought up 5G and said China owned it.  He brought up Musk and SpaceX over patents and talked about China steals patents. He provided us with a glimpse of what he said was the Musk and SpaceX perspective on patents.  Don't miss it.  He then talked about innovation, fast buildouts and more on patents and the best way to secure IP in the context of  SpaceX actions.

John from Montana called with a bad phone line. By the way,  John is in rural Montana and suffers from the lack of development of rural wifi across the country.  If you ever hear an elected official talk about how they are bringing quality wifi to rural places in the country, run from that official, don't walk, as he or she will not be telling you the truth.  Rural wifi is problematic everywhere and this needs priority remedial attention.  Regardless, John wanted to know about technology development for the space force that would help elevate the space force to being a co-equal branch of the military.  Make sure you listen to what our guest had to say on this point.  As Steve had been pointing out during this discussion, there needed to be a focus on capabilities and the mission in order to be an independent force.  He also said that so far that was not happening.  John then asked about the rank designations to be used by the new Space Force.  Don't miss the discussion.  Hint:  Think naval ranks.

Our guest had much to say about Elon Musk and his vision.  An example of this was his commentary about the Musk vision of being able to send a payload to anyplace on the planet, even in contested areas.  I brought up a new topic for discussion with our guest, Civil Military Fusion. To simplify, this is about Chinese students in the US and other western nations being agents of the PLA without declaring the relationship.  Our guest had much to say about this, including the need to have "open eyes" about this problem.  He said it was definitely an issue of concern. 

As we were nearing the end of the program, I asked Steve to rate his level of concern about space threats per this discussion with one being not concerned and ten being very concerned.  Our guest did answer the question but with qualifying statements.  Please pay attention.  What way do think things will break? Toward a one or toward a ten?  In discussing this, GPS was used as another example. 

Todd got in the last question.  He wanted to know who among the candidates for president best expressed the type of space vision that he said we needed and that we talked about the past 90 minutes.  Don't miss how he answered the questions.  This question and discussion led to the program conclusion plus what we should demand from our journalists and candidates since those of us listening to the show know and appreciate space as we discussed today.  We should find ways to help educate others to the value and significance of space and a real space economy. 

Please post your comments/questions on this blog for Retired General Kwast and others.  You can reach our guest through me or the blog.  If you want to know more about what our guest thinks the Space Force should be doing, check out this Politico article from earlier this year:  www.politico.com/news/2020/01/17/where-the-space-force-must-go-098884.

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The U.S. Space Force status and news

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