Deputy Secretary of Defense visits Los Angeles Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Kaitlin Toner
  • SMC Public Affairs

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan visited Los Angeles Air Force Base and toured the Space and Missile Systems Center Aug. 27.

As a part of his visit, Mr. Shanahan held a town hall for SMC members in order to address some of their questions about upcoming changes within the Department of Defense (DoD), space development, as well as the Space Force.

“Space is no longer a sanctuary, it is a contested environment,” said Shanahan referencing the National Defense Authorization Act section 1601 report on organizational and management structure for the national security space components of the DoD.

While space as a warfighting domain is a shift for space operators, many folks wonder what it means for the future of SMC.

“The first law of transformation is ‘do no harm,’” said Shanahan when asked about how SMC would be affected. “[I have] three rules, if you will, that embody my approach in working with SMC.”

“The first rule is [to] get the product right. If we don’t choose the right technical solution, we lose.”

Shanahan emphasized the importance of technical skill in addition to acquisition. He stressed that subject matter experts are integral to advancements in capabilities.

“The second rule is to put a plan in place that achieves performance,” said Shanahan. “Without clear goals, the team can’t practice what I call ‘selectful neglect.’ We have, in large organizations like [SMC], competing priorities, and if the goals aren’t clear, then it just creates too much confusion.”

“Rule number three… innovation is inherently messy. It is really hard to be innovative because there are problems – they come up all the time. It’s messy.”

Innovation highlights great leaders, according to Shanahan, because their focus is on the success of the mission, first and foremost amongst the “mess.” He argues that those are the types of leaders needed in today’s culture within the DoD.

“If there is anything I would encourage you to take away from today’s conversation is where I think we should be focused,” said Shanahan. “How do we deliver warfighting capability more quickly? [The Space Force] is the roadmap to doing that.”

When asked what organizations will be taken from the current services and given to the Space Force, Mr. Shanahan insisted that the biggest changes will be in delivering new capabilities and delivering capabilities faster. 

“So the SMC 2.0, the major elements of that – there won’t be a departure, I think that we’ll actually go faster and we’ll add some, I’ll say, new features to that.”

Shanahan described an existing inefficiency within the DoD: services offer the same capabilities through different platforms.  The resulting lack of integration slows down the broader process.

“We need to have an enterprise solution,” said Shanahan. “In the short term we need to stand up the Space Development Agency.”

The Space Development Agency will consist of subject matter experts, like Shanahan emphasized previously as being integral to furthering our capabilities in space as a warfighting domain.

“To me, that’s… sending a super strong message to [our enemies] and putting our best team on the field.”