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News | March 8, 2023

Shaw, VanHerck addressed the need to move fast and modernize for a digital age at the AFA Warfighter conference

By Staff Report U.S. Space Command

U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, participated in a panel alongside U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, to discuss “Evolving Threats: Protecting the Homeland,” March 6, 2023.

The former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten moderated the conversation and did not shy away from asking the senior leaders tough questions on the defense of our nation.

Hyten began by proposing the core issue that he believes is plaguing the Department of Defense today:  speed.

“We can't seem to move fast enough to deal with threats. We have adversaries that are moving unbelievably fast. And we seem not able to take up the challenge and move fast again. So, gentleman how do you look at speed, the need for speed and the challenge we have in getting that which we need?”

VanHerck responded by highlighting the need to have information dominance, specifically the ability to have predictive analysis to gain time.

“The only thing of which I can't get enough or give enough.” He continued, describing how he overcomes this constraint. “It's about layered defense. It starts with our allies and partners and my fellow combatant commanders, and the intelligence community, creating the capability, to give me more options than we have today.”

Adding to VanHerck’s comments on needing more time, Hyten questioned Shaw on how ready USSPACECOM is today to protect and defend the space domain.

“We have to change the way that we build the space architecture. We built large platforms for efficiency. They're not built to be defended against threats. We operated them using the gifts that Kepler has given to us using orbits of fixed orbital energy, but they don't have to maneuver a whole lot,” Shaw said of the need to modernize our systems. “We have to completely rethink how we do our space architecture. We’re probably going to have to be more nimble. We’re going to have to find ways to have sustained maneuver in the domain in ways we do not do today.”

Threats from People’s Republic of China and Russia were addressed throughout the panel, as well as concerns of aging infrastructure and the pace of competition.
The NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander emphasized a need for the U.S. to bridge the gap between the nuclear deterrent and the capabilities that PRC and Russia have developed to hold our ways of projecting power at risk.

Echoing the sentiment, Shaw added, “We need to make our space capabilities resilient to any kind of attack. If we do that properly, we will change the stability equation where we not only deter a war that extends into space, but we deter a war.”

Both leaders also reinforced the need to expand roles of partners and allies in the security of the U.S. and their nations. There was a large focus on classification and the need to find better ways to share information with partners and allies in order to address these shared challenges.

“Every nation seems to be interested in space and what it can bring to them,” Shaw said, when explaining space situational awareness agreements. “We’re making progress slowly, but if we don’t move faster, we’ll miss a huge opportunity.”

VanHerck explained, “Allies are our asymmetric advantage. They bring domain awareness and capabilities I don’t have for conducting operations.”

The panelists were candid on what the U.S. faces each and every day in their respective commands, but they also ensured the audience the commands will continue to protect and defend the nation from present and future threats.

The 2023 theme of the AFA Symposium is “Dominant Air and Space Forces to Deter, Fight and Win.” Over the three-day symposium, senior Air Force, Space Force and industry leaders networked and visited more than 100 exhibitors to learn about the latest technology.