If your professional interests are connected to the nation's space and missile defense programs, then Huntsville is the only place to be in mid-August.

For the past 15 years, the Von Braun Center has been the home of the worldwide Space and Missile Defense Conference, set this year for Aug. 13-16. Through the years, the conference has built a reputation for providing information on current national policies, international concerns and the latest in technology as it relates to the nation's space and missile defense strategies.

"It started out as a conference to help gain public awareness and advocacy for space and missile defense," said Debra Wymer, director of the Technical Center of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command who spends many volunteer hours each year assisting with the planning and coordination of the conference.

"This conference has seen tremendous growth in the past 15 years. Several years ago, the conference had already grown to the point where it takes up all the capacity of the Von Braun Center."

The theme for this year's conference is "Capabilities for a Global Threat: Integrating Joint and Coalition Space & Missile Defense Capabilities to Enable Warfighters." The conference is sponsored by the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association, the Air Defense Artillery Association and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Although the major government entities involved in the conference are the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency, Wymer said the conference includes organizations from all branches of the Department of Defense and through the space and missile defense industry.

"We have been trying to open the interest more and more to other groups within DoD and internationally," she said. "So much of the work done in Huntsville is related to space and missile defense, and is not necessarily connected to SMDC or MDA. Work in space and missile defense is also being managed by the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, NASA and many other organizations."

The agenda for the Space and Missile Defense Conference reflects that diversity in both speakers and topics. Senior defense and industry leaders will provide information on war fighter needs, acquisition plans, and future space and missile defense operations. A range of technical topics will be addressed, ranging from cyber, directed energy and space operations.
Besides presentations by SMDC/ARSTRAT commander Lt. Gen. Richard Formica and MDA director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, conference speakers also include Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek, NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation; Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of the Army's Strategic Command; Brig. Gen. Kenn Todorov, deputy of the U.S. Northern Command; Lt. Gen. John Hyten, vice commander of the Air Force Space Command; Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, commander of the Army's Cyber Command; and Dr. Simon Worden, a retired Air Force brigadier general who is now director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

"Every year we get leaders from different DoD organizations and industry to come in and give us an update on how things look from their point of view, and where missile defense is going in the future," Wymer said.

"This conference provides a good opportunity to hear leaders speak on the strategies of space and missile defense, and to hear from technologists and industry leaders who are developing new technologies. It's a good opportunity for some one-on-one interaction to learn about what is being worked on in space and missile defense."

In years past, the conference has kicked off with a golf tournament. While that is still being offered on Aug. 13, the conference has added a technology program on that same day. The program will address current, emerging and potential future threats to U.S. technology; with breakout presentations on operations issues for small, tactical satellites, emerging and enabling technologies for small, low-cost military satellites, emerging and enabling technologies for missile defense applications and mission assurance in a network-enabled environment.

On Aug. 14, the schedule includes presentations on ballistic missile defense global capabilities, the role and importance of space and missile defense to the war fighter, and rocket propulsion with a panel discussion on the next generation of missile defense.

On Aug. 15, presentations include integrating space and missile defense capabilities to enable the war fighter, using space and missile defense to protect the homeland, and a Strategic Command perspective on integrating missile defense with panel discussions on space initiatives, and joint integrated air and missile defense.

On Aug. 16, presentations include the current state of cyber defense with panel discussions on cyber space initiatives and foreign threats. The afternoon will also include a classified threat session at the Missile and Space Intelligence Center on Redstone Arsenal during which attendees will learn about foreign threats ranging from ballistic missiles and missile defense to anti-satellite systems.

Throughout the conference, exhibitors will be presenting technologies at their booths in the Von Braun Center's South Hall, East and West Halls and the arena.

As an end result of the conference, Wymer hopes government employees, industry leaders and technology experts have a better idea of technology challenges and opportunities as they affect the war fighter's capabilities on the battlefield.
"It's a good chance for us to either get confirmation that the programs we are working on are on the right track or enlighten us about things we need to consider for the future," Wymer said. "The conference should leave attendees with a better understanding of what the priorities are for space and missile defense, what's important to the war fighter and what we can do to better support the war fighter."

For more information about the Space and Missile Defense Conference and to register to attend, visit its website at http://www.udreg.com/SMD/.