What does it Take to Create a Space Force?

Col. Bill Liquori, then-50th Space Wing commander, (far right) accepts satellite control authority of the Wideband Global SATCOM-6 satellite from the 14th Air Force and delegates SCA to the 3rd Space Operations Squadron commander, (center) on Dec. 17, 2013. USAF photo by Bill Evans?.

The Defense Department is still trying to determine exactly what it will take to establish a new Space Force as a sixth branch of the Armed Forces.

The Pentagon’s final report on the organization and management structure of National Security Space components, which also was released on Thursday, said establishing the new service would be a two-phased approach. The first phase will use existing authorities to establish specific components of the new force, such as the creation of a new agency tasked with rapidly developing space capabilities. The second phase will require congressional approval to put the various components together into a new military service.

Speaking to reporters after Vice President Mike Pence outlined the plan at the Pentagon on Thursday, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the administration has not yet put together a legislative proposal for the change, noting it would probably consist of options of varying expense.

“The costs associated with standing up the additional structure, we’ll probably know by the end of the year. We haven’t done that cost estimation yet,” he said.

Asked about the impact of the proposed changes on the Air Force Space Command, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva said the first step in the shift is to “do no harm to the missions that are being accomplished today,” so part of the job would be to figure out how to move missions, such as GPS, pending approval by Congress.

One of the first phase efforts is the creation of a Space Development Agency charged with quickly developing and fielding new technologies. The goal, according to the report, is to concentrate resources and expertise to achieve significant breakthroughs in space, similar to USAF Gen. Bernard Schriever’s development of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.

“The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (AFRCO) provides a model for the thinking, execution style, reporting structure, and innovation required for creating warfighting dominance,” states the report. “Similarly, the DOD Strategic Capabilities Office has delivered exceptional results in leveraging existing DOD technologies to rapidly field new capabilities.” The Space Development Agency will be created “with similar style and intent,” according to the report.

While it’s possible some space acquisition programs will initially remain with the individual services, resources eventually will shift to the new agency.

Shanahan told reporters he thought the there would be a “carve-out” of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems center, which currently executes some 85 percent of DOD’s space acquisition budget. “We’re going to take resources that exist at the SMC, I think we’re going to take resources from other parts of the department, and put those together” in the new agency.

While the report acknowledges efforts USAF has made to improve its space mission, namely the recent reorganization of SMC, it says such efforts are merely “the start.”

The “governance, structure, location, skills, and talent management” at the new agency are still being worked out, according to the report.

While all the services have some space expertise within the ranks, the overall percentage of space warfighters is just a small part of the Total Force, notes the report. The creation of a Space Operations Force, which will be similar to Special Operations Forces that are part of one community but work with all of the military services, is meant to change that.

The operations force will include Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian personnel led by a newly created unified combatant command—US Space Command—“responsible for preparing for and deterring conflict in space and leading US forces in that fight if it should happen,” according to the report.

DOD has recommended the President revise the Unified Command Plan to include the US Space Force by the end of the calendar year.

“The Space Force will follow the National Defense Strategy to accelerate new capabilities. This will grow the commercial space industry and protect US vital interests. The pace of change will be governed by technology—not held back by organization,” states the report. It continues, “The Space Force will unlock our potential and lead to outcomes never before thought possible.”