I have always been fascinated and intrigued by space. My dad was a naval aviator, who was killed in a crash of a military aircraft at the end of WWII, two days before my fourth birthday. I learned at an early age to think about what could happen above the earth. As a young boy I used to lie on my back in the fields of my grandfather’s farm and look up at the stars, moon, sun and planets for hours at a time. Of course as the years went by and we saw Sputnik, SkyLab, space launches, man landing on the moon, and even the Hale-Bopp Comet, my excitement about space grew even more. The development of modern aircraft, missiles and satellites, Hubble Telescope and the Space Station spurred my excitement at a rapid pace. I always knew that the space above the earth was destined to play a role in the future of the world.
When I was elected to Congress in 1984, I served for 6 years on the House Science and Technology Committee as a member of the Space Subcommittee.This committee had jurisdiction over programs such as the Space Shuttle,Hubble, communications and weather satellites, scientific experiments in space and just pure space discovery as we sent space vehicles out of earth’s orbit. I spent years studying developing technologies in these fields.
I carried this background with me when I entered the US Senate in 1990 and became a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, where I had the privilege of serving for 12 years. On the SASC. I was Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee and also the Acquisition and Technology Subcommittee.
The Acquisition and Technology Subcommittee required us to try to look into the future and fund space technology that would be the “seed corn” for future weapons systems. both offensive and defensive. I realized that to remain competitive in the world against our potential enemies, and to protect our homeland, we had to meet these challenges head on.
Critics of military presence in space loved to call this research and development “weaponizing space”, “Star Wars” and other derogatory terms.However, it became obvious to me that even weather and communications satellites had to be protected in space. An enemy with the proper assets could disable or destroy one of our so called domestic satellites and stop us from even communicating with each other by cell phone or even predicting the weather! Could you imagine a situation where not only our battlefield communications, but ALL of our communications, could be totally knocked out by an enemy?
However, the big “elephant in the room” was missile defense. I was an early and staunch advocate of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) because I knew that, if this technology could be perfected, we could shield our nation and knock down enemy missiles either in the boost or cruise phase. The first Persian Gulf War, when we were able to stop some missiles although only in the descent phase, was the inspiration for me to continue to support development of this technology.
There were numerous and monumental battles over SDI and other space assets that I was privileged to promote and to help win. It was during this time that I realized that a separate Space Command was going to be essential if we were going to be able to attain and sustain leadership in space. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard had their roles which were evolving rapidly in the modern world, but there had to be a special and dedicated focus on space. It was why in the 1990’s I am proud to say that I was the first to call for a Space Command. I took a lot of “flak” from the left. One NH newspaper called me “Space Man Bob,” but when you turn out to be correct, who the hell cares about those losers!
When President Trump called for the Space Force, I was ecstatic. It is one of those decisions that will go down as one of the most visionary ever made in American history. I cannot predict what a future space force might look like. Star Wars vehicles? Interplanetary space planes? Who knows? One thing is certain. Space is not the “final frontier”. It is a “permanent frontier”. From this day forward it will always be part of our heritage and future. It may save us as a planet and maybe even the human race. I take great comfort in knowing that it is our military out there and not China or Russia who is leading the way protecting all of us.
Senator Bob Smith
Former US Senator(R- NH, 1990-2003)
Member US Senate Armed Services Committee