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Inputs on USAFA Space Education - Apr/May 1998

From LTC John Amrine:

I recently read your article on helping the Academy in transforming the Air Force into an Air and Space Force.

I have a similar concern-being an 82 grad and having been in the space business for nearly 16 years. I have heard a lot of rhetoric but seen little action up to this point.

On a recent TDY (I'm currently stationed in England) back to the Springs, I visited the Astro department (met with dep dept head and the space POC) to find out what they are doing to lead the way of incorporating space into the Air Force.

The sad story is very little. The bottom line is that they need dollars to develop programs for the cadets. In addition, they need space related hardware for use in their programs. Don't know if you are aware that they are launching a satellite this year. I can't help in this area but I know they are looking for corporate sponsors (former grads) like yourself to help them in these two areas.

I have helped them in several other areas. 1) I have told them about space Ops Officer conferences as well as space Squadron commander conferences. They have taken advantage of these meetings to interview and have the attendees fill out data collection forms on what they would like to see in a space ops grad from the Academy. 2) On a second note, I have prepared an interactive, multimedia CD on space that I have suggested the Astro department consider for incorporation into the curriculum. 3) I have told them about a video Gen Estes (USCINCSPACE) has prepared to recruit officers and enlisted into the space field.

While all of these areas are small-it is a start. As you may detect, I am most concerned/willing to help with "strengthening the Academy's space focus." Here is a great opportunity and we (grads in the space field-in or out of the AF) need to help.

Here is the goal. The USAFA Space Degree should be THE PREMIER undergrad space program in the country-similar to the reputation of the Harvard and Stanford MBAs.

I have many ideas on the above goal. Let me know what you ideas, plans, etc are.

I am willing to help out on this goal and would like to work with you in achieving it. How can I help out? Are you going to have a formal organization with a board? If "Yes" I would like to be considered for one of the board positions.

From Stephen A. Wojcicki (Wojo), Colonel, USAF

If you really want to get some dialog going, you ought to take advantage of all the existing "space infrastructure" in Colorado Springs. I'm sure that US Space Command, AF Space Command, Cheyenne Mountain, and Falcon AFB all have knowledgable grads who would be more than happy to give you their opinion on the subject. Gen Estes, CINCSPACE, is a grad. Maybe you can link him up with the Superintendent and they can jump start this program.

From Lawrence Cooper:

I think that there should be an overall program which ties together poli sci, law, and science and technology (if there is not a formal one, there should be). Also students should learn how to establish alternative futures and utilize them in strategic planning.

From Capt James Cashin:

If we are truly going to become a Space and Air Force, we need to transition from our current "Space Support to the Warfighter" philosphy (which for the most part is space support to those who support the warfighter) to "Space Warfightinig" by developing a true Counterspace Capability and a Force Application capability.

From Lt Col Bill Barry:

Your concerns ... are well founded.

From my perspective (in the Poli Sci Department) I see lots of activity here at the Academy, but much of it had little effect due to the lack of coordination. As in most academic institutions the focus here is largely within disciplines and departments. Thus, the Astro Department teaches its engineering courses drawing only on its own resources. The 34th Ed. Group (formerly Military Arts and Sciences) covers space operations/strategy in some of its courses. My department teaches a space policy course. Law teaches an Air and Space law course. History is doing a special offering course on the History of Space and Air Power this semester. Sadly, the level of cadet interests in these courses is relatively low. Last Fall (97) we had over 30 cadets in the space policy course. Next semester we will have 17. I have guest lectured in the history course this semester - and there were more faculty members in the room than cadets in the course (there are less than 10 cadets enrolled).

There are many explanations for the low, and declining, interest level of cadets - but, at least part of the problem is institutional. Several faculty members (most notably Lt Col Pete Hays '79) have tried to establish a formally sanctioned faculty "Space Studies Group". The goal was to establish an interdisciplinary coordination and discussion group. It would be an organization of interested faculty, staff, and (hopefully) cadets that could coordinate course offerings, guest speakers, and provide a forum for continuing education on space issues. The Academy has formalized similar groups for interdisciplinary study of all the major geographic regions of the world. In fact, the AOG has very generously supported the activities of these groups. (I know. I am the Chairman of the Slavic and East European Studies Group.) However, LtCol Hays' efforts to set up such a group for Space Studies have been rebuffed. This, simply, does not make sense. I understand that part of the reason for this is political - that the Astro Department actively resists the intrusion of other folks on its "turf". However, becoming an Air and Space force will require more than engineering knowledge.

I firmly believe that the creation of an official sanctioned interdisciplinary space studies group could dramatically enhance the space focus of the Academy. It doesn't even demand much monetary support - you'd be impressed with how much "bang" we got out of the $500 the AOG gave to the Slavic Studies Group this year.

Not to be all doom and gloom - I should mention that there are a number of devoted folks who are working on these sorts of issues on an ad-hoc basis. For example, LtCol Hays organized the first-ever conference on "Teaching Space Policy" two years ago in conjunction with the USSF Space Symposium. This generated considerable interest across parts of the UASFA faculty. Members of the Law, History, and Pol Sci Department share resources (e.g. LtCol Bill Schmidt of the Law Department "shared" astronaut Kevin Chilton with me this week. Col. Chilton spoke to LtCol Schmidt's Space Law class and then to my Russian Politics course.) In one of the more unusual collaborations, LtCol Dave Humbert (Foreign Languages) and I have been teaching a senior tutorial on "Space Russian" this semester. These are just a few of the many efforts here at our alma mater. But, just think of how much better the program could be - how much more effectively we could inspire and educate both the cadets and faculty - if we made a serious attempt to coordinate these efforts.

I certainly hope that you will be inundated with good ideas about how to strengthen the space focus here. There is great latent interest here among the staff and cadets - but we need to find better ways to focus it.