STRATCOM: Space Force Will Happen Someday, But Now Isn’t the Time

Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, testifies Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Screenshot photo.

There will be a new military service in the US focused on space, but now is not the time for that change, the head of US Strategic Command said Tuesday.

USAF Gen. John Hyten predicted a new service will be created, taking space away from the Air Force, but he emphasized that cannot happen now. The discussions that began with language in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act are laying the groundwork to talk about when “would be the right time, what elements would be in place,” he said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In the meantime, the Pentagon’s 2019 budget request calls for an 18 percent increase in the space domain and those funds are focused on warfighting, Hyten said. His comments come a week after President Trump told a crowd at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., that space is a war-fighting domain, and “we may even have a Space Force. Develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force.”

Trump’s comments were surprising, given that the Pentagon and Air Force leadership have repeatedly expressed opposition to this possibility. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson was asked about the proposal on Tuesday, saying that the president’s comments show he is considering “different ways of organizing.”

The administration has relaunched the National Space Council, and is openly acknowledging that space is a “warfighting domain” for the first time. While Wilson avoided saying she openly supported or opposed the president’s comments, she said these recent steps show how important the military is taking space operations.

A major problem in space operations has been how slowly the Air Force’s acquisition system moves. Hyten said he is seeing “good signs” in both Defense Department and Air Force leadership that this could speed up, but that hasn’t actually happened yet.

The Pentagon hasn’t “proven to anybody that we could go fast again. … We have to get out of our own way,” he said.