Loverro: Space Force Is Critical Regardless of Today’s Threats

Loverro: Space Force Is Critical Regardless of Today’s Threats

Former DOD space policy official Doug Loverro told the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group today that it is essential to create a Space Force now in order to build a culture and identity within DOD to support the space mission.  He argued that the Space Force concept has become too tightly tied to today’s threat environment, but the need existed long before those threats emerged.  Indeed, many studies over the past two decades have recommended such an organization as outlined by Mark Berkowtiz who was involved in many of them.  He worries that implementation aspects of the proposal before Congress remain opaque and while the proposal has merit, it may not solve the problem.

Doug Loverro. Credit: Loverro’s LinkedIn page.

Loverro was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy from 2013-2017 and had extensive experience in the national security space community before that.  He is now a consultant and one of the leading proponents for reorganizing DOD to better manage and execute space programs. He sees the fundamental issue as a need for a dedicated entity to “organize, train, and equip” space forces, which is what military services do.

The debate over the need for a Space Force, or a Space Corps as it was called when the House included it in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), typically focuses on the growing threat to U.S. space systems posed by China and Russia as they develop antisatellite weapons. Loverro agrees that is important, but the crucial need is a career path for developing space professionals and an associated culture and identity.

The debate in the Administration and on Capitol Hill actually involves three elements– creating a Space Force as part of the Air Force; reestablishing a unified combatant command for space, U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM); and creating a Space Development Agency (SDA) to more quickly develop and acquire new technologies.  Loverro thinks more effort needs to be made in effectively communicating why all three are needed.  His take is that Congress broadly supports USSPACECOM and is “non-plussed” about SDA, but confused as to why a Space Force also is needed.

“They haven’t … heard the rationale clearly why an organize, train and equip function makes sense, a Space Force makes sense….  We focus so much on the threat discussion that we forgot that the need for a space organization preexists the threat by a decade or more. The need for a space organization is so we can continue to do better in space regardless of the threat.  The threat makes this an urgent need, but doesn’t change the need.  The need has been there all along.  And by focusing on the threat, we fail to articulate the critical cultural, advocacy, identity,  doctrinal, career progression, cultural issues that underpin the need for Space Force.  I would like to see us emphasize those more, ignoring the threat, and then just explain why the threat makes it more urgent.”  — Doug Loverro

His bottom line is: “We need a Space Force and we need it now.”

Berkowitz is a Lockheed Martin Vice President, but was speaking today in his personal capacity. He said the Space Force proposal before Congress has merit, but cautioned it may not solve the problems it is designed to address.  “It does not appear the plan will necessarily reduce fragmentation, streamline decision-making, or clarify the lanes in the road” among the DOD entities involved in space activities. The SDA is “additive” to other organizations already developing new technologies such as the Rapid Capabilities Office, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, the Missile Defense Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and others.  “Misalignment” is another problem, but there is no optimal organizational structure.  What is needed is the right culture and people who can “overcome the wrong organizational design.”

“Implementation details are, of course, critical, and many aspects of the Department’s plans remain opaque or undetermined. Consequently it will be important to have metrics to evaluate the plan going forward to be able to measure if it is effectively reversing the erosion of our strategic advantages and readiness to address the threat or use of force in space.” — Mark Berkowitz

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Space Force on Thursday.  Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., and Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten are the witnesses.

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