Assistant Air Force secretary talks ‘evil geniuses,’ Space Force at Wichita panel

Assistant Air Force Secretary Will Roper stressed the urgency of establishing a “dominant” U.S. presence in space Monday at a panel discussion on space defense and deterrence.

The panel, moderated by Sen. Jerry Moran, was held at the National Institute for Aviation Research as a part of an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the federal intelligence community has indicated the U.S. could face any number of futuristic threats from space.

Defending the country’s satellites from a myriad of attacks will be a top priority in coming years, he said.

“If an evil genius can think it up, we’re probably going to face it on that space-based battlefield,” Roper said.

“A satellite on orbit that could come and attack you, a space-based robot that could pull your satellite apart, high-powered microwave that could try to fry the antennas — anything you can think of, expect it,” Roper said.

He said foreign adversaries see interfering with the U.S.’s satellites as a way to undermine the “huge advantage” America has in the world.

“If I was in their shoes, I’d be doing that too. It’s smart,” he said.

“Fortunately, we have our own evil geniuses in the Air Force who are playing both the bad guy and the good guy. We’re very confident that we’re going to be able to make space a safe and survivable domain.”

He said the U.S. must approach the future of global defense with a sense of urgency.

“We have to get after it, because there’s a new playbook to write,” Roper said.

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re very excited about Space Force.”

Last year, President Donald Trump announced his intention to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. For now, Congress has voted to house the division inside the Air Force.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanual Macron announced the creation of a space force to be housed within the French air force.

Later this year, NATO officials will acknowledge the possibility of warfare in space by designating it a new defense frontier, according to Reuters.

“The world really needs us to be ready to fight and win that war,” Roper said. “So until we have a new deterrent posture in space that would convince any adversaries it’s just not worth going there, we’ve got to be dominant there.”