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​Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson says space is one of her top priorities during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2017. Screenshot photo.

​Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson made it clear Thursday she is focusing her tenure significantly on space. “I spend about a third of my time … focused on space,” she said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The reason, she said, is that “we have some significant challenges there” in domain awareness and command and control. “We need unfettered access to space and we need freedom to operate in space,” Wilson said. One of the keys to achieving that goal is developing “a common operating picture of what is going on in space.”

The Air Force has a lot of experience in cataloguing space objects, but “if you’re worried about malevolent action in space, you need more than a catalogue,” Wilson said. “You need near real-time situational awareness” to identify current threats.

Along with a better view of the threat, the Air Force also needs “to be able to do something about it, take action,” Wilson said. That’s why she’s focused on improving space battle management, or command and control.

“We are building that in Colorado, it’s called the National Space Defense Center,” Wilson said, and its key characteristic is an “open architecture system.” All future Air Force space assets will have to be compatible with the new space C2, which means “we’re no longer going to buy satellites with exquisite, science-experiment control systems,” but only those that “plug into the common system.”

Wilson said she is hopeful the service can achieve these goals quickly, given the recently elevated profile of several space leaders. She mentioned the creation of a new deputy chief of staff for space within the Air Force and the assumption of a new joint space role at US Strategic Command by Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command.