Generally Speaking: SMC Year in Review

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel
  • SMC Commander
As 2006 comes to a close, I'd like to reflect on some of the highlights that have made this such a remarkable year, and look forward to some of the challenges and opportunities in 2007. SMC is the "birthplace of military space" and 2006 has been a year of "rebirth" and transformation. We have taken enormous strides across the center in achieving our goal to be the recognized center of space acquisition excellence across the DoD. From mission and program successes, to new facilities, to a new organizational structure and progress in rebuilding our workforce, the list of accomplishments is very impressive. We have also set the foundation for even greater achievements and performance improvements in the future. I am extremely proud of the teamwork and personal dedication that has made this possible and would like to review some of the tremendous achievements and performance of our people


One hundred percent Mission Success - that was our no. 1 objective - and you delivered! Just read our report card: an all-time record 48 consecutive space launch successes, 100 percent success with the new EELV launchers; 30 Global Positioning System satellites operational, satellite constellations are the most robust in history - the list goes on. Several troubled programs were put back on track - Space Based Infrared systems, GPSIIF, Advanced Extremely High Frequency, Wideband Global Satellite Communication, and Space Based Surveillance System are now all on solid baselines and executing to plan. SBIRS HEO-1 sensor is on-orbit and delivering incredible data that promises to revolutionize space infrared surveillance. We have made major strides in developing and fielding new space situation awareness and space superiority capabilities. Quite a year indeed!


A world class organization needs a world class workplace to perform at peak level. 2006 saw the culmination of a complex land-swap deal which has provided SMC a fabulous new home. We kicked off 2006 with the monumental task of relocating SMC people and operations from the old Area A, to the modern Schriever Space Complex. Appropriately named after the father of military space, General Bernard Schriever, our new home now provides modern, safe and efficient workspace for our space acquisition professionals. We dedicated the new complex with the "rock" and "armillary" to officially mark the new SMC home. Other improvements include a new Base Exchange, new customer service facilities, a new club and conference center and improved fitness facilities. We still have parking and landscaping improvements to make, and the 61st Air Base Wing is working daily to put the finishing touches on the revitalized base. Our facilities are now second to none. I congratulate and thank the 61 ABW team and everyone involved with this historic construction and move - your efforts will enable SMC to reach to new levels.


People are our most important asset and 2006 has been a challenging and dynamic year for the LAAFB workforce. Significant FY07 budget shortfalls across the Department of Defense, increased USAF priority on recapitalizing of our aging air and space forces, and overall workforce pressures created a "perfect storm" for the center. Our combined workforce of military, civilian, Federally Funded Research and Development Center and SETA personnel has been a key source of strength, but SMC has faced numerous challenges and reductions in each area in 2006. As we have worked through these changes, I charged SMC senior leadership to maintain our focus on mission success, preserve long-term technical and acquisition core capabilities, meet the Air Force-directed cuts intelligently and find creative mitigation plans, convey to everyone they are valued members, and to aid and encourage SMC members in finding new avenues and opportunities to continue in the exciting and challenging space business.

Due to the hard work across the center, SMC's reductions and "force shaping" will be less than originally projected, but we continue to pay close attention to this critical challenge. We can expect further active duty reduction programs and increased restriction on PCS moves. I am committed to maintaining a vibrant SMC technical acquisition workforce - our most valuable resource and the key ingredient to our nation's continued leadership in space. I commend all leaders and staffs that have worked this difficult issue in 2006 and challenge everyone to stay ahead of the curve in 2007.

"Back to Basics"

As we know in the space business, you only get one chance to get it right. In 2006, we have aggressively pursued our "Back to Basics" strategy and made great strides in strengthening our processes and reestablishing technical and management rigor in our programs. We realigned the entire center around a wing-group-squadron structure which creates more regular and effective organizations and increases leadership development opportunities. We have strengthened many management practices and processes as well as functional organizations such as Engineering and Architectures, Program Management and Integration, Development Planning, Contracting and Financial Management across the center. We are implementing a new "Block Acquisition" business model to shorten cycle times, better manage technical risks and increase flexibility and confidence. The foundation is now laid for dramatic gains in 2007 in better executing our current programs, better defining future programs and continuously improving how we conduct our business.

As part of the AF's Smart Ops 21, AFSO21, initiative, we have recently kicked off an SMC and space enterprise-wide analysis of our mission, business practices and partnerships. Guided by change experts from the Air Force and the MIT Lean Aerospace Initiative, senior leaders from across the center have bored into the workings of the space enterprise, mapped out "value streams" in what we do. The next step is already underway to train "change warriors" across the center and apply the lean practices to eliminate waste and implement process change across the center. With this in mind, I am excited by the prospect of these initiatives leading us to unprecedented effectiveness and achievement in 2007. In the end, we must all be agents for constructive change in this important mission.

What's ahead in 2007

In 2007, I expect SMC will emerge as a high performing center of excellence as we "turn the corner" in space acquisition. In October, we partnered with industry to set firm commitments to deliver on critical programs across the center. The number of major program milestones and launches in 2007 is impressive and will provide us with an opportunity to reestablish our credibility and trust across the space, defense and national communities. We all need to redouble our efforts to meet our commitments as many eyes are watching us in 2007. I am confident that we have the right people at SMC to meet these challenges.

Space is indispensable to our national security and economic well-being. The U.S. enjoys unrivaled advantage in the high frontier due to the intellect and dedication of you, the men and women of SMC and LAAFB.

During this holiday season, please pause to give thanks for many blessings on our nation and our families, and remember the service members deployed overseas in our defense. As SMC's "Year of Rebirth" gives way to SMC's "Year of Commitment," I want to express my sincere appreciation to every member of the LAAFB family for a job well done. I am proud of your service, dedication and commitment and look forward to an exciting and productive 2007 with you.

Please be safe as you rest and enjoy your time with friends and family. Linda and I wish you the very best - may God bless you and your families during this most joyous season.