PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. –
More than 70 U.S. Space Command headquarters and component senior leaders attended the 2021 Fall Commander’s Conference from Oct. 25-28, 2021, to address readiness and emerging challenges in the space domain.
Various speakers engaged participants on the evolving and contested operational environment and the importance of accelerating space capability to the joint force. Conference highlights included NATO and joint force commanders, Department of Defense top specialists, a regarded author and more.
Former commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, retired U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, along with his then-senior enlisted leader, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. David Clark, shared some of their unique experiences.
“You're the first ones dealing with a new dimension, a new realm, and frankly, we don't know everything there is to know about that,” said Nicholson. “As a commander, when dealing with complexity, uncertainty and risk — ultimately, people are essential to your success. Knowing the strengths or weaknesses of different organizations that are working with us, and how to leverage their strengths is very important.”
Clark talked about what right looks like, commending the conference’s inclusion of veterans and military spouses.
“When we think about the relationships you're forming here throughout your military journey that matters,” said Clark. “It’s also about trying to keep the balance between your family and the mission.”
David Spirk, chief data officer for the Department of Defense, discussed strengthening data management across the military and accelerating the transition to a data-centric culture. Spirk was responsible for the creation of a data-driven, decision-making culture while leading the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning as the former chief data officer for U.S. Special Operations Command.
Spirk expanded on how the DoD is moving to an open data standard architecture to improve data sharing between platforms and systems. Spirk said it was necessary to break down the walls to data sharing so defense agencies could operate in a data-centric way.
Christian Brose, author of “The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare,” discussed why the U.S. military must apply emerging technologies to prevent war, deter aggression and maintain peace or risk the erosion of national defense. Brose is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and served as the staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 2014-2018.
“I think the challenge for us is that we also have to adapt or we risk the erosion of our technological advantage,” Brose said. “America must build a network of more autonomous and more intelligent systems to assist America’s military with rapidly understanding threats, making decisions and taking military actions. This is a military concept known as the ‘kill chain.’”
U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, USSPACECOM’s senior enlisted leader, discussed the need to educate the joint force about Space, and the importance for military leaders to come together at events like the three-day conference.
“We need joint warfighters who are space smart, but we also need space warfighters who are joint smart,” Stalker said. “Essentially, we need folks who can see the bigger picture of a joint command, but also how it fits into global operations.”
Stalker said when military leaders understand the whole-of-government concept, including global diplomatic, military and economic issues, they can apply strategic deterrence to threats abroad more effectively.
The conference also served to highlight outstanding members of the command and its components. Army Gen. James Dickinson, USSPACECOM commander, and Stalker recognized individuals as “Stars of the Command.”
“We really couldn’t do it without our people,” Dickinson said. “We are a total joint force; we have people who have flown jets, flown bombers and drove submarines. We have experts with the Space Force, Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, so it really brings us together in terms of a combatant command that allows us to do things that we've never done before.”