Shanahan: “No Groupthink in the Pentagon” re Space Force

Shanahan: “No Groupthink in the Pentagon” re Space Force

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said today that the Pentagon is still working through how to create a Space Force. He praised the contributions of senior military and civilian leaders as the debate continues, stressing there is “no groupthink in the Pentagon” and they will find the answers as a team.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air-Space-Cyber conference September 19, 2018. Screengrab.

Shanahan’s comments at the Air Force Association’s (AFA’s) Air-Space-Cyber conference adds another voice to earlier remarks by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and a position paper issued by AFA, both on Monday.

He told the audience that there is “lots of serious thinking and important trades to conduct” while putting together a proposal that can be sent to Congress in February.

A governance committee is wrestling with how to do establish a Space Force.  “There is no groupthink in the Pentagon…. There will be some hand wringing and arm wrestling” but the Pentagon is the “best team I’ve ever been on and we’re a team and we’ll solve it as a team.”

The key is to spend less time on the structure around the Space Force and more on “how do we deliver the capabilities.”

He specifically praised Wilson at several points in his speech, which covered a broad range of topics.  Regarding Space Force, he characterized her as “brilliant” at putting together a legislative proposal.

Wilson is a former Congresswoman. During her speech on Monday she referenced a memo she signed the previous Friday that spells out the Air Force’s views on the Space Force.  She estimated the cost of establishing a Department of the Space Force and a unified combatant command at $12.9 billion over 5 years.  That is an Air Force estimate.  The Pentagon has not put a pricetag on it yet, although Shanahan previously said he expected it to cost “billions.”

One ongoing debate, Shanahan said, is over how much separation there should be between the warfighter and the acquisition process.  Some think there should be none, while others, including himself, believe there should be some.  He cited his industry experience at Boeing working on the Comanche helicopter program as an example of what can go wrong — warfighters kept changing the requirements so much that the program was cancelled.

Another issue that he did not mention appears to be whether any Intelligence Community components should be wrapped into the Space Force.  Wilson’s memo said yes, while a memo he issued last week said no.

His message today, however, was that while the “how” of creating a Space Force is debatable, “we are united by the why — protecting our economy and deterring our adversaries and focused on delivering more capabilities faster.”

Shanahan spearheaded the Pentagon’s response to a report required by Section 1601 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, colloquially called the “1601 report” or the “Shanahan report.”  Vice President Mike Pence released the report on August 9.  In addition to the Space Force, it calls for creation of a new unified combatant command, U.S. Space Command, and a Space Development Agency.  Shanahan said Space Command will develop space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques and operations and improve integration across combatant commands and services.  The Space Development Agency will support rapid product development and leverage the commercial space industry.  Headquarters will be “lean.”

As all of this takes place,  he promised “we will do no harm to existing missions, create no seams between the services, and remain laser-focused on our warfighters and the capabilities they need to win.”

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.