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A View From Space Command: An Interview with Brigadier General Kevin Campbell, U.S. Army

By | July 1, 2002

      By Nick Mitsis

      Increased defense budgets, a strengthened global military presence and the emergence of homeland security mean that the armed services are being asked to step up to the plate with more commercial input. As a result, military officials are scrutinizing and further examining the vital role space-based applications have on terrestrial operations.

      BG Kevin Campbell, director of plans for the U.S. Space Command, is one of the individuals who are keeping a close eye on these developments. He recently talked with Via Satellite and shared some insights into what the future will hold for commercial/military cooperation.

      Via Satellite(VS): What are the top priorities and areas where commercial technology can be incorporated within near- and long-term space architecture agendas?

      BG Campbell: I believe there are three areas where commercial technology can play a role. If you look at the operation in Afghanistan, it is obvious to the pedestrian that we lean heavily on satellite communications first and foremost. In addition to communications, commercial remote sensing applications are another area that we can fit into our space architecture. The issue here, however, centers on responsiveness and how quickly you can provide a product to the warfighter. There are certain aspects to remote sensing that we can hand off to the commercial industry. When you get into the deliberate planning process, where the product is not needed for immediate targeting, commercial remote sensing can play a significant role. In turn, we can let our national remote sensing systems do the more time-critical functions. Another area where commercial input is helpful is weather. We have some issues today with our systems, so this is a great area to hand off and let the commercial arena help fill the gaps. That way, we can take advantage of what is out there and not try and buy unique systems that cost us a lot of money to both purchase and maintain throughout the years. I think those are the three main areas where we can get a lot of help from the commercial sector.

      VS: What are some of the specific space-related lessons learned from the war on terrorism?

      BG Campbell: I do not know if I would call it a lesson, but the demand for more commercial satellite communications bandwidth has increased. As you field systems, such as unmanned vehicles for real-time reconnaissance, and have people wanting that information shipped back to multiple headquarters, that pretty much eats up your available bandwidth. For example, in Operation Enduring Freedom, we used seven times the bandwidth compared to Desert Storm–a total of 322 times the bandwidth per soldier, sailor, airman and Marine. So, if we are going to continue to satisfy these requirements and provide information to multiple users, then we really have to go back and look at our architecture plans on the communication side. We must prioritize our requirements. You can’t have it all. There is going to have to be a prioritizing decision made with bandwidth usage because everyone cannot be on the [bandwidth] highway at once. If you are going to be sending live video over the channel, then there is something that is not going to be done at headquarters when someone thinks it should perhaps get done. Therefore, we have to prioritize and acquire more bandwidth.

      VS: Now as the prioritizing happens within the military arena, is there anything the commercial operator can do to offer additional bandwidth or transponder space to help that process along?

      BG Campbell: That one is tough to answer. I think, in the general sense, what you look for is assured access and today what I see is that if you get there first and you can buy it, then there is your access. I mean this is the business world we are talking about. If CNN gets there first, then they are going to be the guys that get the bandwidth first. Ideally you would like to say to the commercial companies that we would love to see a lot more capability up in space, “however, I am only going to use it occasionally. I am only going to lease it from you every so often.” Well, what kind of commercial business sense is that? Therefore, I am not sure what they can do for the warfighter in terms of assured access.

      VS: If that is the case, then why does the military not increase its purchase of dedicated transponders on commercial spacecraft?

      BG Campbell: In my opinion this could be viable. We are introducing battlefield systems now that are a large consumer of bandwidth. And our architecture has not matured at the same rate. Now we have some choices to make. Are we going to continue to try and meet the need with military-unique systems? I don’t think we will. So maybe it is time to go to the commercial sector and lease more transponders. There may be a business case on the military side in the future for such a scenario if these systems continue to outpace the military systems.

      VS: Value-added imagery products are a hotbed of opportunity for the commercial industry. How are military relations growing and what new needs are you seeing emerging that can indeed be fulfilled from the commercial imagery sector?

      BG Campbell: If you are doing deliberate planning, then there is an absolute need for this type of commercial information. In particular, if you can deliver it to the theater operator directly, from the warfighting perspective, that is a capability that I definitely want.

      VS: What are the most frustrating aspects of working with the commercial sector?

      BG Campbell: Maybe frustrating is the wrong word, but when the Department of Defense works with the commercial sector we certainly hope they can deliver what they claim they can deliver on a schedule they say they can deliver within. That is what can become frustrating, when they do not deliver on the proposed dates. And again, this is not just merely commercial but also the defense contractors who, at times, can be overly optimistic on their ability to provide the capability that they claim they can provide.

      VS: What payoff have you already witnessed with the ongoing reorganization within the military stemming from the Rumsfeld Commission report?

      BG Campbell: My sense is these were the right recommendations and they will enable space initiatives to move on an even par with the air, land and sea operations we currently have. And what I am seeing is a much more focused attention at the senior level on the problems and taking them head on. I am also seeing a much more unified effort on systems that we are trying to work on for the good of the nation and all the departments. I think those recommendations [from the commission] were on target and I think they will keep space on the front row and allow us to keep focus on those things so we don’t trade off space capability. Space has a chair in the front row now and we have the right people paying attention to it.

      VS: There is much emphasis put on “Launch on Demand.” Can you share with me some insights as to how the military will more clearly work with the commercial launcher partners to maintain a smoother launch on demand process?

      BG Campbell: This is a little bit out of my lane, but we want the capability to launch on demand. In terms of partnerships, I think the Air Force has done great work in working with the commercial sector. We need to go hand-in-hand with them to make sure we continue to get the benefits of this launch partnership.

      VS: Do you expect the space segments of the military to maintain an increased level of cooperation with the members of Capitol Hill well beyond our current war situation or do you foresee budgets, attitudes and relations reverting back to pre-September 11 once the dust settles?

      BG Campbell: In terms of working with Capitol Hill, I will not say greater cooperation, but I have seen a willingness to cooperate to produce the systems we need to produce. We have made some mistakes in the past. I see today there is more unity, but there is definitely room to grow.

      VS: Does the military need a separate space force to complement its ground segment?

      BG Campbell: I think that if we properly implement the recommendations made by the Space Commission, we will not need a separate space force. We can do business the way we are organized today, in addition to the way we are reorganizing, to get capability into the warfighter’s hands. So, I do not think we have to take that step.

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