- US Space Force, the military’s sixth and newest service, is approaching its first deadline, when it will have to submit an organisation plan to Congress.
- There are thousands of decisions to be made for the new force as it is stood up, not the least of which is how it will partner with the other service branches, Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday.
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The US military’s newest service, the Space Force, is only about a month old, having been signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20.
There are “thousands and thousands of actions” that have to happen to get the new force up and running over the next 18 months, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of the new branch, said that day. But the first deadline is already looming: An initial organisation plan that Congress wants by February 1.
Space Force officials are already considering who should be recruited and how, what new groups should comprise the service, and how doctrine will shape its path forward, but that’s just the start.
“There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made up front. There’s a lot of things that have to happen,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
“We’ve gone ahead and already moved 16,000 people” into Space Force, all of whom are from the Air Force, Hyten said. Those active-duty and civilian staffers were assigned at Space Force’s inception, but people will need to volunteer and re-enlist as part of a formal transfer process over the next few months.
Space Force, which was created from Air Force Space Command, will be housed within the department of the Air Force. But decisions won’t be limited to how Space Force works with the Air Force, said Hyten, who previously led Strategic Command and has long worked on space operations.
“We have to look at the Army and the Navy, and we have to look at the Guard, because you actually can’t do the the space mission without the National Guard. The National Guard is a perfect partner for the space mission – much more perfect than many other missions that we have the Guard do.”
“It’s perfect because it’s, in many cases, a state-side mission, a homeland mission, that’s done in one place,” Hyten said. “You can build very, very good expertise in that one area and have a Guard unit that is focused on a singular mission. It’s perfect.”
A Pentagon official told CQ Roll Call this week that the Trump administration was preparing to send Congress a legislative proposal for fiscal year 2021 that would establish National Guard and Reserve units for Space Force.
Staying ahead of Congress
The relationship between Space Force and the other service branches still has to be sorted out, particularly how Army or Navy personnel could be involved in the new branch, Hyten said.
“We only have about a year to figure it out, maybe a little bit less, because Congress is going to make a decision next year about how the Army and Navy [are] going to be treated, and we need to try to be ahead of that,” Hyten said.
Those branches and the Marine Corps have traditionally had “an element that knows how to integrate space into your force,” be it a manoeuvre unit or a fleet, Hyten said.
“That’s actually a service function that should stay in the service,” Hyten added. “Then you have capabilities like flying satellites, building satellites, delivering satellites – that’s a Space Force function. So as we move into the future, we have to figure out which element goes in the Space Force and which element stays in the service.”
All the services need that space capability, Hyten said, so figuring out the division will be one of the first things the new force needs to do, lest Congress decide for them.
“We would like to make sure that we have a voice in that decision, which means we have to do it pretty quick,” Hyten said. “Because come this summer, probably as soon as posture hearings, Congress is going to be asking that question.”
Space Force is not designed or intended to send combat troops into space. Rather, it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was reestablished in August 2019 and will lead military space operations.
Space Command is a unified combatant command – like Strategic Command, which oversees the nuclear arsenal, or Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military – but has yet to have a permanent headquarters.
Asked on Friday about a timeline for that decision, Hyten said it was one he, as vice chairman, was not involved in but that he thought it would come in the next year.
“The Air Force set up a really good process, each of the services have, about how you do a basing decision, and it’s kept very close hold, and it goes through a very structured process because it becomes so political,” Hyten said. “You want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row to do that.”
Hyten added that he was sure Barbara Barrett, the secretary of the Air Force, “knows exactly where it is right, and I don’t, but I do know that we need a decision, I think, this year.”