A Conversation With US Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett
Article by Steve Forbes November 13, 2020 (forbes.com)
• Space is a far cry from the peaceful region it was when we landed a man on the Moon over 50 years ago. China and Russia have become aggressive and space has become a theater of power politics. In response, the US created the Space Force almost a year ago, the first new military branch since the creation of the Air Force in 1947. It was Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett (pictured above) who oversaw the launch of Space Force.
• Barrett points out that the US and the global economy are totally dependent on satellites, especially the GPS. But as China has demonstrated, those satellites are vulnerable to attack. “It is a remarkable thing how completely dependent most Americans and people around the world are in our day-to-day lives on space (assets – i.e.: satellites),” said Barrett. She pointed out things that we take for granted that depend on GPS and other satellites. The time on our clocks are set by a satellite. Likewise our ATM machines and gas pumps. Weather predictions, crop monitoring, and environmental monitoring all depend on satellites.
• “[W]e built a glass house before we knew about stones, in that we have a vulnerable system,” says Barrett. “[W]e built it without consciousness of that vulnerability. So now … [w]e need to be able to protect that capability, and we need to deter others from attacking our GPS satellites. …[W] need to replace the current satellites with less vulnerable, more jam-resistant and protected satellites.”
• Forty people at a base in Colorado run the entire GPS system – free to the world. “I would put forward the GPS system… has had a bigger impact in a shorter time on all of mankind than any other invention in mankind’s time. I mean, think of fire, or the wheel, or the printing press — what would compete with the GPS system that has been fully operational just 25 years and is used by so many people around the world with so few people managing it?” asks Barrett. “It’s a remarkable reality of our time.”
• At age 13, Barrett become her family’s bread-winner for five siblings and her incapacitated mother, after the sudden death of her father. In the 1950’s, she trained as an astronaut in Kazakhstan and Russia where she learned the Russian language. She was the first civilian woman to land in an F-18 fighter aircraft on a moving aircraft carrier. She’s held executive positions in both the private and public sectors. She served as our ambassador to Finland, where she engaged in a war game dog fight in the air in an F-18 against the head of the Finnish Air Force. The joust was a draw.
• “[S]cience (and) technology, these are moving very rapidly right now, with artificial intelligence, machine learning, hypersonics, biological, nuclear, and chemical developments and training,” notes Barrett. “[W]e have to be fast and nimble… [a]nd that’s why the Space Force is being designed to be innovative, bold and agile.”
Almost a year ago, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett oversaw the launch of a new branch of our military, the U.S. Space Force, the first new service since the creation of the Air Force itself in 1947.
In this sobering, eye-opening segment of What’s Ahead, Barrett persuasively explains the crucial need for a service totally focused on our needs in
space. Like it or not, space has become a cockpit of power politics, a far cry from the peaceful area it was when we landed a man on the moon over 50 years ago. China and Russia have become aggressive. Beijing, for instance, used a missile to blow up one of its satellites to show what it could do to the thousands of satellites that now populate space. Barrett describes two hair-raising, space-based incidents that occurred with Russia.
We are vulnerable. For example, the U.S. and the global economy are totally dependent on satellites, most especially the GPS, which is operated by the Space Force.
Barrett is the perfect person to get this mission off the ground. She trained in her late 50s as an astronaut in Kazakhstan and then in Russia. She had to learn Russian while simultaneously undergoing intense training. She was the first civilian woman to land in an F-18 fighter aircraft on a moving aircraft carrier. She has successfully held executive positions in both the private and public sectors. She served as our ambassador to Finland, where she engaged in a war game dog fight in the air in an F-18 against the head of the Finnish Air Force (the joust was a draw).
At age 13 Barrett had to become her family’s bread-winner—for five siblings and her incapacitated mother—after the sudden death of her father.
You’ll leave our conversation wanting to learn even more about the Space Force and about Barbara Barrett herself.
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