Editor’s note: Stanford University is hosting a brand-new class this fall—Technology, Innovation, and Modern War. Steve Blank, who teaches the course along with Joe Felter and Raj Shah, is writing about each class session—offering Modern War Institute readers an incredible opportunity to learn about the intersection of technology and war and hear from remarkable guest speakers. Read about previous sessions here.
Today’s topic was military applications of cyber.
Some of the readings for this week’s included “Summary of the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy,” “How to Compete in Cyberspace,” “Defense Primer: Cyberspace Operations,” “Commodification of Cyber Capabilities: A Grand Cyber Arms Bazaar,” and “Divided by a Common Language: Cyber Definitions in Chinese, Russian and English.”
Our guest speaker was Sumit Agarwal, former deputy assistant secretary of defense and DoD senior advisor for cyber innovation. Out of MIT, Sumit joined the US Air Force and was one of the first officers in network warfare. He’s spent almost twenty years in the National Guard. But in the private sector he’s done a number of amazing things: he headed up mobile at Google, then went back into the Pentagon where he was the youngest deputy assistant secretary of defense ever in the Pentagon. Then most recently, he cofounded Shape Security, one of the leading cybersecurity companies in the country. Earlier this year, Shape Security was sold to F5 for over a billion dollars.
Safety and Security Online
The way we are going about creating safety and security online in cybersecurity and defending against cybercrime isn’t quite rational. In cybersecurity, any individual, any business of any size, from a small business all the way up to a giant bank, is at the end of the day subjected to the worst that adversaries of any sort—foreign nations, organized criminal gangs—can throw their way. And that makes no sense.
The thinking about online security is absolutely at odds with how we think about security in the land, sea, air, and space domains. Our Army, Navy, and Air Force defend our borders. So the result of no defenders in cyberspace is what one would predict. It’s a mismatch. The result is that we are less secure. You end up with companies that are losing more money online, losing more assets that belong to them and more customer data that they’re entrusted with, than they would ever lose in an offline context. And so that’s a really strange thing in the domain that we created—we are having a harder time safeguarding and securing ourselves than we do in the other domains.
I think that it’s a matter of understanding who has the authorities and the norms to defend. Who has the right to defend? Who has the obligation to defend? So that was my thesis when I left the Pentagon in 2011.
How Would You Architect a More Secure Environment?
It’s not okay the way it is. It’s as if the military said, “Hey, we protect US citizens as long as they’re hanging out on a military base. I’m sorry, but if you’re not on a military base, you are totally exposed to any form of threat that can possibly exist in the world.” That is absurd in the real world.
I think that there are two or three fundamental components to it. The first one is, we as a society have spy agencies like NSA that have the preponderance of cybersecurity expertise and capability. At the national level, there really are not a lot of other agencies that have that level of expertise. What you end up with is a choice that we as a society have been unwilling to make, which is: Do we let a spy agency safeguard us domestically at home on the internet? Or do we say, it’s the Department of Homeland Security who is the only one chartered with the mission and has the authorities to safeguard US persons or people at home?
That choice is profoundly broken because DHS does not have the necessary level of capability. So with the benefit of hindsight, I think what we need is an agency that has every bit the level of technological expertise that NSA does in the area of cybersecurity, but that is not a spy agency. And that agency would need to have the titles and the authority, and the charter to protect US persons. And you see that same dichotomy in the FBI versus the CIA. The CIA is externally facing, it’s effectively a spy agency. FBI is all about domestic issues that exist primarily at home. So that is a very clear, bright shiny line, which we didn’t really realize in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was going to become such a problem. But at this point, we have two unpalatable choices. You can let a spy agency be in charge. Or you can let DHS, which has the charter but doesn’t have the expertise, be in charge. And so what you end up with is no defense. So that’s what I would do at the national level in terms of creating an agency and organizing things differently and better.
On the second piece, which is how you create a little bit more clarity between what’s real and what’s fake, that is very challenging, because anonymity is a key, cherished belief system and value online. We all prize privacy and anonymity. So if you swing the pendulum over to say, “We would have a lot more secure online experience if everybody had a hard identity, and you needed to basically jack your driver’s license into a little key card reader in order to get online,” you would have a more secure environment (i.e., a CAC card for civilians). You would have a lot less vitriol, you’d have a lot less trolling, you’d have a lot less of the nasty things that we don’t like online, including crime. But what you would lose is anonymity and privacy. A CAC card is what we use in the military.
I’m not sure if there’s a good answer to how would I balance the reality that it’s a totally insecure, “Wild West” on the internet with the idea that the privacy and anonymity of the internet, in many countries, is really important. It’s allowed the internet to be a tool of great good, not just great bad.
What Trends Are You Seeing That Attackers Are Doing?
Attackers are always going after the softest targets. So in many ways, the softest target is everybody in society. The people who are least capable of defending themselves against sophisticated attackers are not the large corporations that have billion-dollar cybersecurity budgets, that have IT staffs and teams of professionals. It’s either small businesses, or individuals.
The number one thing that we see attackers doing is emulating real people. This is my work in identity and the idea of real versus fake on the Internet. You know, in 1993, there was that New Yorker cartoon with the dog logging onto a computer and it said, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.“ But ironically, twenty-seven plus years later, on the internet, no one knows if you’re Joe dot Felter at Gmail, or Raj Shah at diux.co, or whatever.
Identity and Truth on the Internet
Online you can be almost anybody you want to be. And it is so easy to social engineer, to phish, to put malware on someone’s machine and to gain access to the things that represent their identity. If you know someone’s username and password, you’ve effectively got their identity. There’s no holographic mark in the upper left corner. There’s no signature in the background, there’s no watermark, there’s no special place that can validate those photos. I mean, it’s literally less secure than college kids cutting photos out to get into bars with identities that don’t belong to them on a driver’s license. It’s that insecure.
And so amazingly, the internet still works despite this profound lack of true security. But the trend that I always follow is how you tell what’s real from what’s fake. Is the thing interacting with you a human or a nonhuman? So much of what criminals do is really about writing programs and bots that simulate human behavior to do human-like things. They then use those stolen identities to have what is truly a fully synthetic actor.
It’s a little bot that has some aspect of your identity, and it will run around on the internet trying to log into something or trying to represent itself as you. And the impact of this is far worse than the economic harm of losing $1,000. Banks are probably losing hundreds of millions of dollars on a quarterly basis. No consumer knows about it, because those funds are silently put back. No bank wants you to know how porous the banking environment is. They simply want to absorb those losses so that you don’t lose confidence. And that’s actually okay from a societal point of view.
Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior
A far worse aspect of the usage of synthetic identities is what we call “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” or CIB. For example, bad actors getting on Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok and creating what appears to be a groundswell of activity and effort and belief around a particular ideology, a particular idea or a concept, none of which are true.
Even right now in our election there is coordinated inauthentic behavior that is pushing ideas and concepts that are driven by actors that are trying to interfere in our election. (In 2016, it was absolutely rampant. There’s less of that happening in 2020.) So what happens when there’s interference by CIB? When there are millions of actions, likes and posts and clicks and forwards, that are inauthentic, you end up with a perversion of democracy. So this idea of real versus fake is incredibly pernicious. And it’s something that I think, is worthy of a lot of time and attention by anybody that that wants to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
Deep fakes are a really, really challenging problem. So far, there are a few technological solutions that can do frame-by-frame and pixel-by-pixel comparison and figure out when various kinds of algorithms are being used to make a mouth move saying words other than what was said in the original video. The same is true for images.
I’m not aware of what the fundamental long-term defense is going to be against deep fakes. However, we can create more security around official communication. If I wanted to have an official White House video, or even an official video from me, I could create that. There are long-standing concepts that have nothing to do with cybersecurity that you could use.
I think what we’re going end up with is the following: official communication, like a video of Biden or Trump is eventually going to have enough watermarking and fingerprinting technology, that the major social media platforms will be able to verify authenticity. You could even use blockchain-related concepts to say, here’s the original source of that video that’s been uploaded to the public blockchain. And we know how to verify against that.
The part I have a lot more difficulty with is user-generated content. What if the video we care about is not necessarily that of a famous person? How do you solve the problem that there is no real authentication mechanism when a video or a photo is being shared and propagated and virally explodes on social media? There is no one thing to say, is this authentic? Does it have the right watermarks and digital fingerprints? When it is content that’s being generated by individuals I think it’s going to be hard for us to decide whether that video is real or fake. So it’s a very, very complicated space that’s still emerging.
What Are Some Developments in Cyber That Might Change Offense and Defense?
I think there are two. The first one is homomorphic encryption (fully encrypted communication, without having to decrypt the underlying data.) We’re getting to the point where the compute burden on being able to take two numbers—just take the number one and the number two—and let’s encrypt them. We don’t want anyone to know what two numbers we’re adding together. And we want to add them to get the solution, which is three. In the traditional way, you share keys, exchanging secrets with whoever you want to be able to perform that computation. They decrypt the two numbers, add them up and get the solution—three. And they encrypt the answer and then they transmit that back to you. So that’s the old school way of doing things. And it has two fundamental problems. One, it’s vulnerable, because you have to decrypt the things that were meant to be secret. And anywhere in the process, if you have to decrypt them, that’s problematic. And the second is, you have to exchange secrets with anybody that you want to do business with.
That is fine at a limited scale, when you have a small number of partners. But when you want to have a heterogenous environment, maybe an international coalition, it doesn’t scale very well. So for a long time, DARPA has been chasing after this idea of being able to perform computation on encrypted data without decrypting it. And the problem was that as of 2010, when I was at DoD, there was a ten to the sixth compute penalty. So a million-x compute penalty on adding the number one and the number two together if you left them encrypted. And so over the last ten years, we’ve been knocking down that exponent, and I think we’re right on the verge of being at the level of ten to the first or ten the second. And that’s a very tolerable cost for fully encrypted compute, without having to decrypt the underlying data. That’s one exciting area.
And the other one is quantum computing. We’re getting very, very close to the point that quantum computing, certainly for defense, may be available. And that is going to change everything about security online. Because the core of security online today is about computational expense of factoring very large prime numbers. And quantum computing gives you so much more capacity that you can in fact find many more such primes.
Do Our Constitutional Protections in the United States Put Us at a Disadvantage Compared to Adversaries That Don’t Share Our Values?
I think the answer is 100 percent yes, at a tactical level, some of those constitutional freedoms put us at a slight disadvantage. But the answer is less about cybersecurity and more about liberal democracies. I think that the question is, do liberal democracies do better than more authoritarian regimes over a much longer period of time? Because when it comes to getting something done, you don’t need to develop political will in an authoritarian regime to the same degree as in a liberal democracy.
What Do You Think Needs to Happen for Liberal Democracies to Prevail and Feel Safe?
I think that the future of warfare is going to be less and less overt, less and less hot. It’s going to be less and less about putting kinetics on a target. It’s going to be about influencing large numbers of people in very subtle ways. If you can influence people, it’s that old thing about winning hearts and minds. If you can just influence them in a certain direction, you may be able to win without fighting at all. And so you end up with a war of ideology and a war of culture in open countries.
I think that the big challenge for liberal democracies is, how do we ensure that the conversation we’re having is a real and authentic conversation with the people we think we’re having it with? I think the conversation happening on Facebook right now is incredibly polluted by people who have ill will and Ill intention. And I worry. I’m going to devote a large number of my career years to figuring out how to kind of stem that tide of inauthenticity.
In terms of what the government can do, I think we’re going to have to take a more active role. We’re going to have to figure out a contract with American society that does that in a way that you’re comfortable letting us help create a lot more safety and security.
There’s a distinction between policing what happens on a social media platform—that seems very active and heavy handed—versus saying, “We can ensure authenticity without compromising security and privacy.” There are a lot of companies that are failing to take steps that are readily attainable that would help with this problem. And so I think that there’s also a regulatory component that says that you have to safeguard yourself using these technologies that we’ve identified. We need a much more robust framework that says that if you’re going to have an online system, this is what security means.
I’ll give you one of my favorite examples. The doors that separate your bedroom from the hallway, or the hallway from the garage are rated for a certain number of hours that they can burn in the event of a fire. So the idea of safety and security in the real world is baked into every component of the physical world with which we interact. That level of intensity has got to go into constructing a major website or a major web platform if you have any hope of it being safe or secure. That’s very different from the current regime, which is really “everybody do their best and we’ll hope it doesn’t turn out too badly.”
What Gives You the Greatest Optimism Looking Forward?
Over the long haul a freer and more open, more liberal society can suffer a lot of bruises and bumps but can find its way back to a civil discourse. As much as the brand-new tools of communication and aggregation and finding community are creating craziness like QAnon and extremist behavior, I think that there’s still an opportunity for some better version, some good version of communication, collaboration and people coming together to exist. It’s hard to point to quantitative examples of that right now, but I do believe that we will get there. These are growing pains, and growing pains take a decade or two to work their way through the system. But the entire internet, the way we know it, is barely twenty-five years old. So it’s barely a young adult. There are a lot of stories still left to be told.
Read the entire transcript of Sumit Agarwal’s talk here and watch the video below.
If you can’t see the video click here.
Today’s topic was the Space Force and modern war.
Some of the readings for this week included “Defense Primer: The United States Space Force,” “Defense Space Strategy Summary,” “Space Capstone Doctrine: Spacepower Doctrine for Space Forces,” “State of the Space Industrial Base 2020,” “Space as a War-fighting Domain,” “Russia gears up for electronic warfare in space (part 1),” and “Chief of Space Operations’ Planning Guidance.”
It’s amazing to think that it’s been seventy-five years since the United States created a new service, which was when the Air Force spun out of what was the Army Air Forces after World War Two. The creation of the Space Force is an indication of everything we’ve been talking about in this class—about the changes in technology and threats, the speed at which those are happening simultaneously, and the new organizational models needed to counter them.
Formation of the Space Force
Last year, the president signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the birth certificate, if you will, for the United States Space Force. And I’ve been privileged and honored to lead that group of folks, some very sharp space professionals, in establishing this force.
There’s no checklist on how to do this. There’s really no history to go back to. But we are moving out with great speed, to be able to establish this force.
Why Do We Need a Space Force?
The strategic environment we face today is rapidly changing. And the nature of warfare is changing. We’ve been involved in the space business in the military since the 1950s when space was a great power competition. And what started out as nation-state versus nation-state has evolved to where we have students building satellites. We started developing capabilities as part of that great power competition with the Soviet Union. I’ll highlight a few demarcation points where I think there was some significant shifts.
Desert Storm and Space
In 1991 we went to war during Operation Desert Storm to evict Iraq out of Kuwait. And that really was the first space war. It’s the first war where space was integrated into theater operations. US and coalition forces did a left hook through the desert at night on a featureless terrain to maneuver against the adversary. And the way we did that was using a GPS constellation that wasn’t even fully up and operating. Iraq was also launching Scud missiles and we used strategic missile warning capabilities that we have (in space) to detect intercontinental ballistic missiles, and we used them to be able to give warning of these smaller rockets.
Since that time my whole career has been focused on integrating space capabilities and everything that we do as a joint and coalition force. And today there’s nothing that we do that isn’t enabled by space, whether it’s humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, all the way up through conflict.
China’s Anti-Satellite Demonstration
The next demarcation was 2007, when China launched a missile that blew up one of their own satellites into about three thousand pieces of debris. That was the wakeup call that space may no longer be the peaceful, benign domain we hoped or wished it would be. It was no longer just using our space-based capabilities and integrating those capabilities into operations. Now we had to worry about protecting and defending those capabilities. Everything from jamming of GPS and communication satellites, to laser threats, to on orbit activities, to cyber threats, to missiles that can be launched from the ground that that can blow up a satellite.
Defending Space, Part 1: Space Command
Because of this changing strategic environment, the United States over the course of the past few years has been in a dialogue on what’s the best way to organize for space.
Space had long been part of the Air Force and the thought was, we really need to elevate space to a level commensurate with its importance to national security. In the Department of Defense, we’re organized two ways. One part of the organization—the eleven combatant commands—is focused on warfighting. There used to be a command called US Space Command, but it was stood down shortly after 9/11 and the responsibility for space moved underneath US Strategic Command. In August 2019 we reestablished Space Command as its own combatant command.
Setting up Space Command as its own combatant command was one part of that equation. And I was privileged to plan it and then be its first commander.
Defending Space, Part 2: The Space Force
A few months later, in December 2019, the United States decided to elevate what we call the “organize, train, and equip” part of the military. That’s what services like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and now the Space Force do. And space moved from underneath the United States Air Force to become its own independent service. I served as both the commander of US Space Command and the Space Force chief until August 2019, when we split the hats and now there’s a new commander for US Space Command, and I’m solely focused on the organize, train, equip, part—the Space Force.
It’s interesting when you’re dual-hatted as a service chief and a combatant commander, you get to write yourself a letter saying, “hey, dummy, why did you do that?” And so it’s kind of fun. But a combatant commander has a much more narrow, short-term focus. He or she has to conduct operations today. A service chief tends to think longer. I want to build the service for the future. And that tension between near term and future is why that structure in the Department of Defense is so important. Where you have two different, two distinct functions, that provides a healthy tension.
In the standup of the US Space Command and the Space Force, I think Congress got it exactly right, when they said that the commander of Space Command could be the service chief for up to a year. Because when we were standing these organizations up, I was able to make organization- or enterprise-level trades between the two organizations. And it was much easier. And now that we have those structures built and we have the staffs designed, almost all those trades are done. Now it’s time to split those hats and get two distinct four-stars with separate focus running fast.
Organizing the Space Force as an Independent Service
Let me give you a few thoughts on what an independent service needs to do and some of the things we’re thinking through.
There are five things we have to do to set up Space Force:
- Developing our own people is a big piece of what we’re focusing on. We’re inventing this service, because we don’t want to just build what we had, we want to invent something new, that’s purpose-built for this domain, to be able to get after the challenges that this domain provides us.
- We have to have our own doctrine. And so we just published our first independent Space Force doctrine called “Spacepower.”
- We have to have our own budget. We took all the dollars that were associated for space from the Air Force and brought them into the Space Force.
- We have to design our forces to be able to operate in a contested environment and to reduce duplication of effort, enhance our speed, and reduce costs.
- We have to present those forces to a warfighting commander.
There are several lines of effort that we’re focusing on:
- We’re working to build the Space Force as a very lean and agile service. We don’t want to be big and slow, we want to go fast. The domain that we operate in is huge, it’s one hundred kilometers above the surface and higher. And so that vastness of space and the speed at which things move is significant.
- We also want to be able to build capabilities at speed and acquire capabilities at speed.
- We’re developing this service as the first digital service; to have a digital headquarters, a more fluent digital workforce. Everybody that comes into the Space Force will learn coding and adopt digital engineering standards as our as our standard for acquisition.
- We’re also focusing on partnerships. We believe that with this service, we can develop closer ties to our allies around the globe and to commercial industry, and be on the cutting edge of innovative industries going forward.
- We need to develop space experts that understand how to operate in the contested domain. Today, we’ve got the world’s best space operators, but we’ve trained them to operate in a benign domain. We’re shifting to training them to operate in a contested domain.
How Did You Organize Space Force Staff Functions?
The plan was to have over one thousand people on the staff. I thought that was going to be too clunky, too big, and too slow. We’ve whittled that staff size down to less than six hundred. However, having said that, you have to be able to operate inside the Department of Defense. And there’s overhead that’s required just to be able to do that and to do that well. You need somebody to be able to pick up the phone and be able to understand who they’re talking to. And you don’t want to get too different so that people don’t know how to plug into you. So we came up with critical functions that we had to have to operate inside the Department of Defense.
For example, if you’re going to be a member of the Joint Chiefs, you have to have a three-star that can interact for you on your behalf with the other services. And so we stood up a three-star called the S3, so everybody understands that nomenclature inside the Pentagon. We have a hybrid approach where we have the S3 bit combined with some other functions, because we wanted to have a reduced leadership structure, so we made it the S2/3/6 and we call that person the chief operating officer to drive a different mindset for that position.
We’ve done the same thing on the resourcing side. And we’ve done the same thing for our human capital development where we have a hybrid approach. And then we also stood up a chief technology and innovation officer and made that a direct report to me as well. That’s the leadership team.
What’s the Role of the Space Force in Promoting Positive Norms of Behavior in Space?
Space is a warfighting domain just like air, land, and sea. We do not want to get into a conflict that begins or extends into space. We want to deter that from happening. We are working to develop norms of behavior to address what is safe and professional behavior in space. We want to develop those by demonstrating good behavior in how we act. We’re very transparent, and we share data broadly across the globe.
A lot of people talk about space deterrence. I just talk about deterrence—the calculus of imposing costs and denying benefits. All combatant commands have a deterrence role, US Space Command does as well, and the capabilities that we provide help feed into that deterrence.
How Will You Bring in Talent from Commercial Companies?
We’ve developed a human capital plan that’s really innovative. We want to be able to bring people in from industry, laterally into the service. We want to be able to send people from the Space Force and have them go work at a company and come back. We want to do things differently. There are a lot of authorities that that we have that are underutilized; we want to use all of them.
Our first ten months have been about building the processes to get people into the Space Force. On December 20, 2019, when the president signed the law, I was the first one. And then we got a command senior enlisted advisor, that was number two. Next, we got eighty-six cadets coming out of the academy. That made eighty-eight. And then we held boards and who at the Air Force is going to apply to come in? We had around nine thousand applicants for seven thousand positions. Now we’re looking at doing the innovative pieces. This human capital plan will be the model for others going forward. We built the plan, we built the strategy, and now we’re focusing on implementing that.
How Are You Tackling Classification?
Classification is an issue that we’re working through. Space has largely been in the classified realm. In my opinion it is overly classified. And we’re working hard to develop a strategy. If your goal is to deter conflict, you want to be able to message any potential adversary to be able to change their calculus. It’s kind of hard to do that when you can’t talk about things.
What Is the Space Force Doing Differently in Innovation—with Commercial Partners and Internally?
First, one of the big things we’re doing is adopting digital engineering as our standard. And it’s more than just the digital engineering of the thing. It’s all the way from requirements, to acquisition, to developing the capability, to testing the capability, to operating the capability. We want to have that digital thread.
We’ve worked hard over the last couple years to expand our defense industrial base. I’m not saying that the partners that we have aren’t good. They provide great capabilities, but we want to expand that. The work we’re doing with what we call the Space Enterprise Consortium is trying to get others involved.
We are looking to build a Space Systems Command that will have disruptive innovators sitting side by side with more traditional innovators. We think there’s room and value for all. If you look at the domain and where it’s headed, and where industry is headed, there are a lot of opportunities to come up with a hybrid type of architecture. Not just a one-size-fits-all approach. And we think expanding that industrial base is going to be important to us.
We’re also looking at developing a relationship with industry that is closer than the relationship that we have today. That’s going to require some different rules for operating under. We’re really focusing on pushing decision making down to the lowest level. I want folks managing their programs, not managing the Pentagon bureaucracy. We’re really trying to delegate down to the lower levels. And if we do this right that will be another model for others to emulate.
One of the things that you can’t do: you can’t go out and kill somebody for making a mistake. We want to be able to fail forward. And we want to be able to move at speed. I think you have to do that in a domain that’s so big and where operations happen so fast.
How Does the Space Force Approach Cybersecurity?
One of those threats on that spectrum of threats is a cyber threat. And so if you look at who we’re bringing into the Space Force, one of the career fields that we’re bringing in are cyber professionals. We need to understand the cyber terrain to be able to operate in this contested domain. We’ve actually integrated cyber professionals on our operations floors as part of our crews to be able to protect our ability to operate. We’ve really put a lot of focus on this over the last few years to harden ourselves from any kind of cyber threat. And it’s a constant, constant vigilance thing for us. And it’s something that we take very seriously.
What Did You Think of the Netflix Show About Space Force?
No matter what you think of the show, it shows the excitement and the imagination that is going on across the country about space. I think it’s going pay dividends for us. Again, it’s not just about military space, it’s about all the different sectors of space.
When I was a little kid, I remember sitting on the living room floor in West Point, NY, where my dad was a teacher and watching man first walk on the moon. And then going to the dining room table and building Apollo models. I think that with what we’re seeing, there’s going to be this enthusiasm for space that is going to help our country. If you look across the board at schools, the schools that I have engaged with over the last few months, they’ve all told me that their interest and their applications for space types of engineering things have gone up. So I think there’s value there for our country.
How Receptive Are the Other Services to Reimagining and Fixing Old Organizational Structures?
First of all, we’re just beginning, we’re just creating this. It’s probably a little early to say what have you built that others our now are emulating. For example, when we did the organization for Space Force, we collapsed two layers of command. I know there’s value to us already.
And if you look at the challenges that we face in the space domain today, they’re largely “big data” challenges. We track twenty or thirty thousand objects in space and probably a half a million objects that we don’t track because of their size. A small portion of those are actually satellites. Though that number is growing significantly with these proliferated low-earth orbit constellations. We take four hundred or so observations a day to make sure that nothing collides with other space objects, and we keep the domain safe. Those are all big data challenges. And so we’ve spent a lot of a lot of time building the data infrastructure.
How Can Students Get Involved in Space?
As we’re building the service, if anybody wants to do a research project, I can give you a laundry list of topics where we could really use your brain bytes to help us think through. And when you graduate, I think there are plenty of opportunities to get into the space business, including through commercial segments that traditionally haven’t been involved in the space business.
We’d love to have you in the Space Force. A lot of parents come up to me and say, “I wouldn’t want my son or daughter to join the military, but I want them to join the Space Force.” And we think there’s an opportunity to tap into a broader population. I’m excited for the opportunity to build a relationship with Stanford and other schools.
Read the entire transcript of Gen. Raymond’s talk and watch the video below.
If you can’t see the video click here.
Steve Blank is the father of modern entrepreneurship, an entrepreneur-turned-educator, and founder of the lean startup movement. He is an adjunct professor at Stanford and a senior fellow for entrepreneurship at Columbia University.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Lisa Ferdinando, DoD