Theme of this year’s SMD Symposium focuses on ‘peer adversaries’

The 21st annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium runs Aug. 7-9 at the Von Braun Center.

What began as a local gathering of enthusiastic space and missile defense professionals more than 20 years ago, has evolved into one of the most anticipated, informative, and influential national public conferences on the defense of our nation.

The 21st Annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium opens Aug. 7 at the Von Braun Center and runs through Aug. 9.

Embraced by the Missile Defense Agency and the Department of Defense, Brig. Gen. Bob McCaleb and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle will welcome enterprise level professionals from the missile defense community, military leaders, and allies from the United States and abroad.

According to Joe Fitzgerald, an original member of the SMD Symposium’s executive committee and two-time past chairman of the event, the 2018 theme, “Sharpening the Military’s Competitive Edge,” marks a fundamental shift in the way industry professionals have looked at the threats our country faces for many years.

“This year’s Space & Missile Defense Symposium will bring to the forefront the realization that the United States has peer adversaries,” he said. “That is, not just threats from rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, but very real threats from countries across the globe who are our equals.”

He said the symposium will address the important part missile defense plays in the survival and security of our nation.

“You will see a recognition that we face challenges meeting those threats, and that we must put more resources into missile defense technologies associated with those threats to ensure our nation’s future, and to assure the defense of our nation. Victory is not assured,” Fitzgerald said. “therefore, we must work to maintain our competitive edge, and by edge, we mean superiority.”

This year’s SMD Symposium will address all aspects of these challenges.

Conference Opening

Gen. John Hyten is a graduate of Grissom High School

Beginning Tuesday morning, Gen. John Hyten, senior commander of the United States Strategic Command, will open the symposium by outlining Space and Missile Defense Imperatives. USSTRATCOM is one of 10 unified commands in the Department of Defense representing all four unified branches of the military.

Among the topics he is expected to discuss is the importance of innovation related to space and the military’s interdependence on space, national security, and the global economy.

In a December 2017 article in SpaceNews, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Stephen Kitay said the modernization of missile-warning satellites has been a topic of recent conversations with leaders from U.S. Air Force Space Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Northern Command. So, will Hyten,  a graduate of Huntsville’s Grissom High School, offer any insights into the future of a new Space Force as recently proposed by the current administration?

“I think Space Force is likely to come up given Gen. Hyten’s relationship with the Air Force Space Command,” said Fitzgerald. “Advanced forces surely add flavor to his thought process, and any future Space Force plans are bound to affect Huntsville for sure.”

Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, Commanding General of the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command follows Hyten with a Space and Missile Defense update and, later, Col. William Darne, the Training & Doctrine Command Capabilities Manager for the Army Air and Missile Defense, will give an update on the AMD’s Cross-Functional Teams.

After lunch Tuesday, Dr. Tom Karako, Senior Fellow and International Security Program Director for the Missile Defense Project, will speak on adapting Joint Air and Missile Defense Operations to the Near Peer Threat. The Missile Defense Project researches innovative means for defeating missile threats and hosts a variety of events to shape the debate about policy, budgets, legislation, and both current and future programs.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, Technology Track gives a variety of selected candidates an opportunity to present innovative technical ideas, methods, and processes regarding cyber resiliency, testing and development, and weapon system performance testing and validation.

Several moderators will host a Multi-Domain Battle Panel Tuesday afternoon. Created by the Army, Multi-Domain Battle allows U.S. forces to outmaneuver adversaries physically and cognitively by applying combined arms in and across all domains of war – that is, land, sea, air, space and cyberspace – cyber being the newest domain, and with underpinnings in every aspect of strategic warfare.

Wednesday & Thursday Features

The programs Wednesday include the MDA’s Focus For the Future presented by Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the MDA; an Allied Update by Air Commodore Madelein Spit, Assistant Director of NATO Joint Air Power Competence Center; and an update from Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch Jr. on the Programs Executive Office Missiles and Space, which provides centralized management for Army Air and Missile Defense and Tactical Missile Programs, as well as selected Army Space programs to meet warfighter multidomain and full spectrum operation requirements.

There will be two Industry and Technology panels Wednesday focused singularly on missile defense with a variety of guests participating including major original equipment manufacturers  and developers of our nation’s missile defense systems. They will talk about the technology challenges, and what the R&D industry is doing to meet those challenges.

On Wednesday evening, prior to an invitation-only VIP reception, Northrop Grumman will host the “Salute to the Warfighter” at its exhibition space. A presentation recognizing and honoring all U.S. warfighters involves a formal salute followed by a networking social and then dinner.

On Thursday, Holly Haverstick, Chief of Weapons for Defense Support of Civil Authorities, will speak on security cooperation efforts in support of missile defense; followed by Rebeccah Heinrichs, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, who will close out the symposium with a talk concerning Space and Missile Defense Imperatives.

Awards & Recognitions

Throughout the week, various industry groups will present a variety of awards such as the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association Scholarship and the Julian Davidson Award, awarded by the National Space Club to an individual or organization that has shown great achievement in advancing space flight programs, and has contributed to U.S. leadership in the field of rocketry and astronautics.

The John Medaris Award, given to an individual from the Tennessee Valley who has made outstanding contributions to the defense industrial base, will be awarded to Dr. J. Richard (Dick) Fisher, Executive Director of the Missile Defense and Space Technology Center.  

“The entire conference is laid out to be an exposé on meeting the challenges of a peer adversary, while focusing our efforts on ways to give our soldiers a competitive edge that is superior to anyone else in the world,” said Fitzgerald.