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Blog Editor’s Note: Everyone likes to talk about tangible problems. We certainly do enough of that in this space each week.

It is often interesting to also discuss root causes, because often the problem you are discussing is just a symptom of a bigger issue.

In the below, General Hyten, an officer we admire for his regular frankness about how much the U.S. military depends on GPS and how dangerous that is, points to “ossification” of DOD’ bureaucratic processes as a root cause of. One could go even further and say this ossification has been allowed to happen because the U.S. and its military have fallen victim to post-cold war complacency. Or that human nature makes it difficult for people to change, or to act to prevent bad things from happening.

All of which is interesting, but still begs the question of solutions. How do we reduce ossification BEFORE something bad happens? How do we get a large organization to change in the absence of a Pearl Harbor-like event?

Change is hard. Leading it is even harder, especially in the absence of a disaster to point to.

Fortunately, disasters don’t have to be violent or involve huge losses of life and property.

In 1957 Americans began seeing Sputnik cross the sky at night. Our sworn enemy, a country that had promised to bury us, had gained the high ground! They were supposed to be way behind us in all sorts of ways, especially in technology. 

This was enough of a disaster to stir us from our post-WII complacency and spark a surge in STEM education and research in the U.S. the likes of which had rarely been seen. A surge that had as one of its more benign outcomes, multiple human landings on the moon.

But the surge to catch up to and surpass the Soviets didn’t happen by itself. It required inspirational leadership and relentless communication and encouragement from the highest offices in the land.

With all due respect to the authors of the below article, we are not sure a series of workshops is going to solve this particular problem. Certainly not any of its root causes.

Let’s hope American leaders can see today’s “Sputnik moment” and help us surge ahead.

A surge that will need to include sufficient terrestrial complements to our space-based capabilities to de-escalate space, while at the same time making the U.S. stronger and more resilient to whatever problems may lay ahead. 




Hyten’s Parting Shot: U.S. Must Step Up Response to Chinese Space Weapons

Hyten’s warning is clear: DoD’s processes are not currently on track to produce adequate solutions in time. The proposed series of workshops would constitute a major step toward positioning the United States government to nimbly navigate the space weapon landscape of the late 2020s and beyond.

General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the United States’ second highest-ranking military officer, retired on November 19 following an illustrious forty-year career in the U.S. Air Force. At a Defense Writers Group event on October 28, Hyten delivered a parting shot, saying that “although we’re making marginal progress, the DoD [Department of Defense] is still unbelievably bureaucratic and slow” in its response to China’s rapidly advancing space weapons. Given his access to all relevant public and classified information regarding both China’s emerging space threats and current U.S. responses, Hyten was uniquely well-positioned to speak to whether the United States is presently on track to adequately counter these space weapons. We are not. The Senate confirmation hearing for the next vice chairman, Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, will begin December 2. We must hope that Grady will move quickly to offer an innovative tailored and proactive approach to countering space threats.