The online journal of the Air Force Association, airforce-magazine.com, drops a dime–in a good way–on the National Space Studies Center’s own Dr. John Sheldon. We were honored to have John lead a Space Elective Seminar where he made many of the points the AFA captures:
Discussion of President Obama’s National Space Policy, released in June, has centered on the policy’s content. But do we really need national policy governing space? John Sheldon, a professor at Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala., posed that question Wednesday at a George C. Marshall Institute discussion on the new policy in Washington, D.C. “We don’t have an air policy,” said Sheldon. He continued, “We have a set of policies that govern air issues, from military right through to the FAA. The Air Force cooperates with the FAA on a daily basis, and it doesn’t need White House guidance to do that.”
John made these points with the Air War College’s space elective as well:
Sheldon asserted that, ideally, space should be removed from the “politicized environment” of White House policy, leaving agencies such as NASA and DOD to cooperate just as agencies do in other domains today. “Part of the problem is [that] we in the space community think we’re special. From a strategic perspective, we’re not. We bring something unique to the strategic equation, but we’re not special,” he said.
As such, the implication is that space needs to get normalized as an operational domain, just as air has. Fifty years after the Wright Brothers flew, airpower evolved from being policy-limited to non-combat operations all the way to delivering the atomic weapons that ended World War II. After that, Congress and the President created the separate service that is today’s Air Force. Space’s evolution? Not so much.
John wasn’t done:
The fact that the United States does not have “a grand strategy,” and hasn’t had one for more than 20 years, is “going to affect” how the new National Space Policy is implemented, said John Sheldon, an Air University professor, Wednesday. “I think ultimately, [the implementation of] any space policy, regardless of which administration, will founder on the rocks of a lack of a US grand strategy.”
Sheldon underscored that a grand strategy requires not only understanding of American aims, but “prioritizes what we want to do in the world, and how we’re going to do it.” He said during the Cold War this grand strategy “was called containment” and “it had bipartisan support.” The danger posed by Al Qaeda today “is not the existential threat the Soviet Union posed,” he asserted.
Here, John offers up that the conflict formerly known as the Global War On Terror (GWOT) lacks cohesive political support and a coherent strategy to animate its cause and reason for existence.
Of course, containment in the Cold War era was not just a U.S. goal, but had the support of the entire West as well. And the GWOT’s successor, the Overseas Contingency Operations? Like space’s evolution, not so much.
If you read the AFA’s online journal any day except 7 October 2010, you’ll have to access it here. Visit the Marshall Institute at this link.