Colonel Roger W. Teague is commander, Space Based Infrared Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles, California. He leads a government program team of more than 550 personnel and 2,300 contractor personnel to develop and deploy the nations space-based infrared detection, targeting, and tracking systems for missile warning, missile defense, battlespace characterization, and technical intelligence. His $41 billion space systems portfolio includes the Defense Support Program and the next generation Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). These systems are critical for protection against global and theater ballistic missile attacks against the United States, its deployed forces, and its allies.
Colonel Teague entered the Air Force in 1986 upon graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy. His career includes a broad range of assignments primarily acquiring, supporting, and operating space control, missile warning, and communications systems. He has commanded at the squadron and group levels and is a fully-qualified joint specialty officer. Colonel Teague was formerly military assistant to the acting secretary of the Air Force. He commanded the 4th Space Operations Squadron, Schriever AFB, Colorado where he led his unit during launch, test and activation of three Milstar communications satellites. Colonel Teague also commanded the Space Based Infrared Systems Space Group, leading launch and operational testing of the final $400M Defense Support Program satellite. He led the developmental test and on-orbit checkout team for the first SBIRS highly elliptical orbiting sensor, capturing the Air Forces nomination for the 2007 Robert J. Collier Trophy as the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.
Colonel, would you please tell MilsatMagazine readers about your background? How did you decide on an Air Force Career?
I am originally from Flagstaff, AZ and was a recruited high school football player. I selected the Air Force Academy as I then had the opportunity to obtain a great education and play on some outstanding teams. I decided to make the Air Force a career during my first assignment to Space and Missile Systems Center from 1991-1995. Over my 23-year career, Ive worked in several space operations and acquisition related assignments and am thankful for the exciting journey Ive experienced and the opportunity to contribute along the way.
Colonel, what prompted your desire to become involved in satellite/space systems environs? Are you glad you took that path?
As many young boys, I grew up with a fascination for space. I remember watching Neil Armstrongs first steps on the moon and I used to build and launch model rockets as a Boy Scout. Early in my career, I was thrilled to be assigned to the Space and Missile Systems Center and the Defense Support Program (DSP) Office. DSP Flight-16 was launched aboard the shuttle Atlantis just after I arrived and it was a very exciting time. As a young Captain, I was given an opportunity to lead an important DSP ground processing upgrade program. It proved to be a springboard for my continued pursuits in the space business.
I am truly grateful for every assignment the wonderful friends and coworkers Ive known, the opportunity to mold and shape rising young leaders, the partnership Ive experienced with our space industrial team, and strong support from great bosses whove inspired me at every step.
To become the commander of the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing thats a most important role for our country. How were you selected for this important position? What other commands have you held that have helped you in your current role? What command has been, or are, the most rewarding?
I am privileged to command this extraordinary Wing. As I mentioned, Ive previously served in our heritage DSP Program Office and personally know all of the previous SBIRS leaders and several of the DSP directors. I am humbled to follow in their footsteps.
As is the case with other Air Force wing commanders, I was competitively selected by a board for this position based on my record, past assignments, and other related experience. Ive previously commanded twice at the 4th Space Operations Squadron (4 SOPS), and as Commander of the Space Based Infrared Systems Space Group. While my group command experience helped me to grasp the broader SBIRS program issues more quickly, my time as 4 SOPS commander was invaluable. It reinforced the importance and wide-variety of the day-to-day challenges our operational mission partners face and showed me how I can better help support our combatant commanders today. Both command assignments were very rewarding, not only from a mission standpoint, but most-importantly, from a people standpoint. Our nation is well-served in both the protected communications and missile warning mission areas by teams of patriotic professionals who are dedicated to excellence in all they do.
Why is your Wing so important our Country? What are the various responsibilities for your personnel? How many separate divisions are within your Wing? How does your work improve the efforts of our warfighters?
The Space Based Infrared Systems Wing is the U.S. Air Forces activity responsible for developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining infrared space systems in support of combatant commanders and other users. We are the only organization in the country that develops space systems that provide early warning to our Nation and fielded forces in the event of a ballistic missile attack. We manage a portfolio of $41 billion in developmental and operational assets. Personnel perform their daily jobs at 5 different locations in California and Colorado. Our systems contribute to four distinct mission areas: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace awareness.
The Wing is organized principally in support of two materiel product groups for space and ground system acquisition. There are five different staff organizations that provide program management, contracting, financial management, engineering, sustainment, and security functional expertise in support of our programs. We have a detachment located in Boulder, Colorado, responsible for test and evaluation support of fielded products and an operating location in Sunnyvale, California, that resides in-plant with our contractor teammates to support satellite development activities.
The Defense Support Program (DSP) replaced the space-based infrared Missile Defense Alarm System (MiDAS) in 1970. The first DSP launch occurred 6 November 1970, the system has provided global missile warning coverage for 39 years. The satellites have continued to evolve over their long history by increased power output, increased infrared sensitivity, and subsystem improvements. This has increased their design life from 3 to 5 years with many satellites living past 15 years of operations.
During DESERT STORM the DSP early-warning satellite imagery quickly located fixed sites of SCUD attacks. The detected information provided an asset to the warfighter, beyond what they had received in the past. DSP continues to provide accurate and reliable missile threat detection for the strategic and theater allies.
The final DSP satellite known as DSP-23 launched on 10 November 2007. The constellation will continue to be the backbone of the U.S. missile warning detection until the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) augments and eventually replaces the system.
Currently, SBIRS has two Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) payloads on orbit. eye watering views provided by these sensors provided capability well beyond DSP performance.
The SBIRS system performs all its mission requirements, sees targets earlier, longer, and more frequently than other sensors. Its flexible tasking ability provides new ways of collecting mission data, thus enhancing current missions and spawning new missions.
Two of the programs for which you are responsible include the Defense Support Program and SBIRS. Would you please describe each program and their importance to our national security? Were you involved in the Milstar program? How will Milstar be used as new Systems come on line?
SBIRS and DSP have as a primary mission to provide timely, reliable, and accurate missile warning information to combatant commanders and other users. SBIRS and DSP have both global and theater functional requirements to support strategic and theater ballistic missile warning, and as an emerging capability, to support national and theater missile defense. SBIRS and DSP accomplish these missions by providing sustained global infrared surveillance of the earth, detecting and tracking a variety of missile classes to include Surface to Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Infrared Ballistic Missiles (IRBM), Intermediate Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), Space Launch Ballistic Missiles (SLBM), and SLVs. In general, detection occurs early in the missiles boost phase and the missile is tracked throughout powered flight.
During my command at the 4th Space Operations Squadron, we oversaw launch and activation of Milstar Flights 4, 5 and 6, formed the first protected communications ring around the earth using the Milstar crosslink antennas, and stood up the 148 SOPS at Vandenberg AFB, California, to provide a more robust command and control capability. At the time, there was significant pressure on Milstar Flight 4 launch success and eager anticipation of the new capabilities the medium data rate system would provide. In some aspects, we are experiencing a similar period as we bring SBIRS online.
Were ushering in the SBIRS-era with the two new sensors now on-orbit for polar warning and were on-track for our first SBIRS geosynchronous satellite launch next year. While the Milstar and SBIRS systems support different mission areas, both are essential to combatant commanders and provide game changing capabilities. Over the past 10 years or so, weve learned how to best maximize the inherent capabilities within the Milstar system. We will be doing the same with SBIRS as we continue to field this impressive new system.
You must work with a variety of military and government organizations that govern product acquisition. It seems, sometimes, the pathway from RFP reply to contract award takes forever. How can private firms better interface with these environs to supply needed product more quickly?
While there can sometimes be a lengthy path from Request for Proposal (RFP) to contract award, it is important to note that we follow the Federal Acquisition Regulations to the best of our ability. To support a better government-industry interface, it is very important that government and industry establish and maintain clear communications regarding expected contract award and process steps along the way. It is also important that contractors become involved at the beginning for the draft RFP process. One of the main delays in letting an RFP is the fact the request for proposal sometimes has to be amended multiple times due to lack of contractors involvement in helping to clearly define the proposal requirements at the beginning of the process.
How many service and civilian personnel are required to perform the activities? And, how are you handling the budgetary necessities given the federal cutbacks on programs?
Our Wing currently has a total of 454 personnel working at five different sites in support of our mission. There are 102 military, 94 civilian and 258 contractors. Lockheed Martin has 1,800 persons supporting the SBIRS Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) program of which 500 workers are Northrop Grumman employees, the remaining 1,300 are Lockheed Martin employees. For the SBIRS Follow-on Production Program, Lockheed Martin currently employs about 600 folks, of which 200 are Northrop Grumman personnel. Finally, Northrop Grumman also employs 100 persons performing sustainment support for the Defense Support Program. Addressing the budgetary necessities given cutbacks, we work in accordance with our approved program budget authorization and adjust workload and schedule consistent with the funding received.
What do you believe are the most important considerations for Space Systems programs through the USAF in the near future? How do you see such being implemented?
I view three areas as most important.
#1. Adequate, consistent funding. In todays budget environment, adequate funding may be hard to come by for many programs. Defense acquisition programs need predictable budgets. I know President Obamas administration is looking at these issues very carefully and will provide the policy and programming guidance needed for our defense (and space) capabilities.
#2. Stable requirements. The national security space community must resist adding new requirements to on-going acquisition programs. Air Force Space Command Commander, General Bob Kehler has noted several times that we have too many competing requirements and too many capabilities that lead to increased complexity. We need to simplify our requirements and define them clearly.
#3. Protection for our systems. Recent events clearly demonstrate that we need to pay more attention to systems protection (space and ground site). Going forward, we may need to mandate that programs fence funds for system protection. The cost of a catastrophic loss of on-orbit capability is too high we must act now.
What are the most crucial challenges facing our nation, and the Air Force, over the next few years in regards to MILSATCOM and space systems?
Over the next few years, I believe the Air Force will face multiple space-related challenges.
First, we must find a way to sustain excellence in space-related science, engineering, acquisition and operational disciplines. We should continue to improve the way we utilize our currents assets and successfully accomplish our jobs without burning out our workforce. Several career fields and organizations have an extremely high operations tempo and we need to find ways to ease the stress on our forces.
We should continue to seek improvements in space system development and acquisition. The primary goal of space system development and procurement must be mission success. There must be an understanding of realistic and stable requirements, setting and maintaining realistic and stable funding and providing acquisition program managers with the tools, responsibility, budget flexibility and authority to achieve this goal. Given the long timelines typically associated with space acquisition, it is important to strike a balance between requirements creep and extended system fielding timelines.
Finally, we need to continue to find ways to ensure well have a healthy space industrial base for the future. During a previous assignment at the National Security Space Office in the Pentagon, I was fortunate to work on many issues associated with the critical need to maintain a robust U.S. science, technology and space industrial base. Were making progress towards this objective. Longer term, we have a serious growing concern with the Nations math and science workforce. Fewer students have been entering these fields of study, and as baby boomers retire, we need to replace them with new talent. It is important to cultivate the next generation of space professionals.
Regarding MILSATCOM, I am very happy to see the Advanced EHF and Wideband Global System programs making steady progress. These systems provide essential communication capabilities for our joint forces worldwide, and along with commercial systems, are critical to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is important that both programs continue to receive strong support as they are fielded.
I am thankful for the exciting journey Ive experienced along the way and the many opportunities I have had to contribute to our missions There is a very exciting time ahead for us in the missile warning business as our first SBIRS geosynchronous satellite continues integration in preparation for launch. Were also working hard to exploit the outstanding new capabilities provided by our two new HEO sensors. We are poised to fulfill our commitments to the Nation.
Thank you for your valuable time, Colonel. And for our readers, just recently, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded United Launch Alliance a contract modification to perform the launch services for the Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) GEO-2 satellite aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. The anticipated launch period is between December of 2010 to March of 2011 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The SBIRS GEO-2 space vehicle will provide missile warning quick reaction messages to National Command Authorities and missile defense data to destroy missiles and launchers. SBIRS will also provide wideband data to technical intelligence analysts and battle space characterization of the battlefield to the warfighter. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, California, is the payload subcontractor. Both companies are developing SBIRS. United Launch Alliance program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colorado and are supported by transition employees in Huntington Beach, California. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.