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AFOTEC holds first ever Space Summit

(Center front) Maj. Gen. Steve Sargeant, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center commander, hosted the Air Force Space Operational Test and Evaluation Summit at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., July 1 and 2 that brought senior leaders from around the Air Force together to discuss the space capabilities’ acquisition process, focusing on improving operational test and evaluation.

(Center front) Maj. Gen. Steve Sargeant, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center commander, hosted the Air Force Space Operational Test and Evaluation Summit at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., July 1 and 2 that brought senior leaders from around the Air Force together to discuss the space capabilities’ acquisition process, focusing on improving operational test and evaluation.

Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. -- The commander of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Maj. Gen. Steve Sargeant, hosted the organization's first ever Air Force Space Operational Test and Evaluation Summit at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., July 1 and 2. Senior leaders from AFOTEC, Under Secretary of the Air Force Directorate of Space Acquisition, National Geospatial and Intelligence Agency, Air Force Space Command, Space and Missile Systems Center, and the Air Force Research Laboratory gathered to discuss the space capabilities' acquisition process, focusing on improving OT&E.

According to General Sargeant, "We've been applying a Ford testing (aircraft) model to a Toyota (space) production model and it just doesn't fit. We need to find a better way to conduct space OT&E in order to provide better decision quality data to the space acquisition and operational decision-makers. We are rapidly moving away from a process that looks like "Stan Eval" after launch or fielding, to early and continuous involvement throughout the development and fielding of a new space capability."

Col. Suzanne Beers, the commander of AFOTEC's Detachment 4 at Colorado Springs, Colo., led the Space OT&E Summit 0-6 working group participants on the first day of the Summit to create a new space testing model proposal that will involve early, continuous testing by both the developmental and operational testers. The operational testing community will be involved from concept definition, through system development, to system operation; informing key decisions throughout the acquisition process.

During the second day of the Summit, Colonel Beers briefed the new proposed space testing model to the general officers and senior executive service leaders who endorsed the proposal. AFOTEC will now introduce the model to the other Operational Test Agencies, Headquarters Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"This was a very worthwhile event. What we were here to do was to look at a new way to test space systems," said Mr. Doug Loverro, Space and Missile Center Executive Director. "The working group came up with something that really makes sense and everyone is on the same sheet of music. I feel very positive about where we are heading."

"I think this is an overdue initiative to extend operational testing into the earlier phases of the acquisition process and it makes imminently good sense," said Dr. David Hardy, Air Force Research Laboratory Associate Director of Space Technology. "It could have a real major impact on how we produce systems and how we produce them efficiently. This event had some really solid thinking and excellent teamwork. I applaud AFOTEC for getting the right people together and getting this initiative moving. If you take too big of steps you can fail, but the right set of incremental steps can get you to the envisioned goal."

"The event was very productive and we ended at a place where we can take the next step," said Ms. Michele Williams, National Geospatial and Intelligence Agency Chief of Future Systems. "The step isn't so big that we'll stumble, but it's a reasonable step. I think we actually set a precedent for a way forward, especially where we've had separate paths before. This is to the credit of AFOTEC who brought us together. We started with the right focus with the end user in mind who is the ultimate benefactor."