When Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond left his post at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to join the Pentagon last August as Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, the move was seen as a big win for the military space community.

Raymond has spent most of his 30-year military career in space operations. The Clemson grad started his service at the tail end of the Cold War in a Minuteman missile silo, deployed to Southwest Asia after 9/11 to serve as director of space operations during Operation Enduring Freedom, and took over as commander of the 14th Air Force in 2014, leading the 19,500 men and women responsible for missile warning, space situational awareness, satellite operations, space launch and range operations.

In his Pentagon role, Raymond is responsible for formulating the policies that support the Air Force’s air, space, cyber, irregular warfare, counter-proliferation, homeland security, and weather operations missions. Raymond’s assignment to a post more likely to be held by a pilot than a seasoned space operator was seen by some as a sign the Air Force is taking space more seriously.

Raymond dismisses this line of thinking, saying the Air Force has long valued the contribution from the space community.

Raymond saw a vivid example of this deep integration during a recent tour of U.S. combat operations overseas. As an F-16 waited to take off on a mission over Iraq and Syria, Raymond recalled, the fighter jet’s GPS-guided weapons were synced with the Air Force’s GPS constellation. Satellite communications between the pilot and the air base were tested. And the F-16’s target that day had been extensively surveilled by drones controlled over commercial satellite links by operators half the world away.

“You can see where the entire kill chain is enabled by space capabilities,” he said.

Raymond spoke recently with SpaceNews’ Mike Gruss at the Pentagon. Go to bit.ly/raymond-vid to view a 28-minute video of the full discussion.

How does the Air Force ensure space is integrated into day-to-day operations, and not viewed as a separate entity?

It’s very important to train all of our operatives — those that fly in the air domain, those that operate in space, those that operate in cyber — in multi-domain operations. When you put operators from one domain with operators from another, they’re going to come up with multi-domain solutions to provide great effect. There are countless examples of that. For the Red Flag aerial combat exercises we’re going to have a space operator be the commander of the air expeditionary wing for the first time. That’s going to provide a little bit of a different flavor. It’s not just about enabling air; it’s about enabling this multi-domain approach.

Are national security satellites operating in a substantially different threat environment then they were just a few years ago?

When I took command of my last job at 14th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Command for Space, the light bulb came on really, really loud and clear on just how congested and contested space is. Go back to 2007 when you have the very visible Chinese demonstration of an anti-satellite weapon. They’re technologically advanced, they’re concerning, they’re continuing to mature and they continue to talk about these weapons going forward in the future.

Where does jamming fit into the Air Force’s threat assessment?

It’s a real threat. It’s becoming harder to keep spectrum clean. It’s not just adversarial action or potential adversarial action: it’s somebody on the ground misaligning an antenna, a user equipment error; it’s adjacent satellites causing interference with each other. I won’t go into what we’ve seen operationally and the impacts, but largely it’s not the purposeful adversary action — it’s misaligning equipment, or just because the spectrum is getting congested, there’s interference. The challenge is that it doesn’t matter if it’s unintentional. The result is, you’ve got a degradation in communication which is critical to our fight, and we’re working hard to remedy that.

The DoD says it’s seeking more meaningful partnerships in space. What does that mean in reality?

When I first became commander of the 14th Air Force and the JFCC for Space, I realized I did not have the partnerships we needed in order to operate in this contested and congested domain. When it was a benign domain, quite honestly, we didn’t need the partnerships. The first thing we did was we worked hard to develop the partnerships with the intelligence community. We planned together, we trained together, we operated together, we have liaison officers at both places. I am a big fan of Betty Sapp, the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and I give her a lot of the credit for the work we’ve been able to do together. I think if you were to ask Betty, and if you were to ask me or Gen. John Hyten(the head of Air Force Space Command) or Adm. Cecil Haney, (the head of Strategic Command), they would say that as good as that relationship is, it probably isn’t good enough to stay ahead of this maturing threat. The other partnership that we worked on was with allies. You might have heard a term over the past couple years, CSpO, Combined Space Operations. We’ve continued to mature that relationship, and in fact, at JFCC Space out of Vandenberg, we put a couple coalition partners in critical key jobs for the first time ever, to get their experience on the ops floor day to day.

What about commercial partnerships?

I played in the Schriever War Game and it’s kind of a neat experience, when you go to a war game and you get to play yourself, right? And we had the commercial integration cell. Probably the most important thing that we had in that game. And then I go back to Vandenberg, playing myself for real, and something happens in the space domain, a week or so later. It would’ve been really good to have had a commercial space entity that I could call over and say “hey, can you help us out here?” We didn’t. That void was loud and clear — and so I reached out to the commercial companies and said, “let’s see if we can develop a way to stand this up.” We stood up a prototype cell with a couple people, and their charter was to figure out what this thing can be. What it’s going to become is a lot bigger than what it is today, but it’s already paying some pretty significant benefits. It allows us to share information more broadly. If a commercial satellite was about to collide with a piece of debris — and we know this a couple days ahead of time — if I knew ahead of time that commercial satellite was going to do a maneuver — I wouldn’t have to worry about that. This saves everybody a lot of time and heartburn. I’m a huge fan.

You visited the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center in Colorado Springs recently. Besides closer cooperation with the intelligence community, what’s driving the work there?

One big piece is to get more data into the operations center. At JFCC Space and 14th Air Force I was a little datalimited. We take 400,000 observations a day of all the things that are up in space, but we’re not the only ones that have data, and we need to inject more data into that decision-making process. It’s going to experiment with making sure that we’ve got the right data to be able to make those decisions in a contested environment.

Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, and Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, were among those being briefed about the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operatioins Center during a January visit to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Credit: U.S. Air Force/Christopher Dewitt

Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, and Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, were among those being briefed about the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operatioins Center during a January visit to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Credit: U.S. Air Force/Christopher Dewitt

What’s the importance of the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS) to future operations?

It is critical. Prior to JMS, if you were to go onto the JSpOC ops floor and say, “let me see where the Wideband Global Satcom satellite is,” they would sit down at a keyboard, type it out, and a piece of paper would print out, and there would be a set of numbers with orbital parameters.

The first part of JMS was to put a visualization tool on the front end of that. Now you can see that satellite is in orbit or you can see everything around it. That one aspect alone has provided some pretty significant benefit.

Increment Two provides highspeed computer capability that allows you to ingest more data — everything from the low-end commercial to the high-end classification data — and have the capacity to support the new sensors that are coming online, like the Space Fence.

The third part is that JMS has got to be more than just a space situational awareness program. It’s about being able to take that data, fuse it together, and provide decision quality information to come up with courses of action on how to respond in very tight tactical timelines.

What does the term “fighting SATCOM” mean?

Providing critical satellite communications to a user, without fail, even in a contested environment. If you think back when navies started and the maritime domain became contested, we didn’t stop sailing ships. In World War I, when aircraft started shooting down other aircraft, we didn’t stop flying planes. The same thing holds true in the space domain. We have got to be able to operate.

One, you have to understand what users are on what satellites. That’s another reason why that commercial integration cell is so important. Anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of our communications ride over commercial SATCOM, and having them there to help us more clearly and quickly determine who’s on those satellites are important.

You have to have a partnership with the commanders, the geographic combatant that you’re supporting, because you have to understand their priorities. Finally, you have to be able to respond in tactical timelines. As the JFCC space commander, I had processes in place, but to keep ahead, we’ve got to be able to do it quicker and more efficiently.