Shanahan Wants Space Force to Have As Small a Footprint as Possible

Shanahan Wants Space Force to Have As Small a Footprint as Possible

Acting Secretary of Defense  (SecDef) Patrick Shanahan said today that he will propose that the Space Force be part of the U.S. Air Force instead of a separate department in order to avoid creating a big bureaucracy, Congress’s biggest concern. He also revealed that an individual has been chosen to lead the new U.S. Space Command, but he is not ready to say who it is.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. Credit: DOD

Shanahan has been DOD’s point person for how to reorganize the department to improve its management and acquisition of space systems since he was Deputy Secretary of Defense.  He was appointed Acting SecDef  as of January 1 after James Mattis announced his resignation and President Trump accelerated Mattis’s departure.

During an off-camera press briefing today, Shanahan said that space issues are an area where he will continue to work with Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.  According to a DOD transcript, the “focus will be …how do we go faster delivering capability? That part’s been pretty consistent when we’ve had these conversations.”

Trump said in June that he wanted the Space Force to be a sixth military department “separate but equal” to the other services, but Shanahan wants it to be part of the Air Force so it will have “as small as possible footprint.”

And so when we talk about the Space Force, and I think about the discussions we’re going to have over the next, you know, five, six months, it’s going to be small — as small as possible footprint.  That’s why it’s — you know, recommended it sits underneath the Air Force. But then how do we go faster with the development and leveraging of commercially available technology, okay? — Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan

Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, wants the Space Force in place by 2020.  DOD’s formal proposal will be part of its FY2020 budget submission to Congress.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) oversees formulation of the entire President’s budget request every year.  By law, it is supposed to be submitted to Congress on the first Monday in February, but often is late.  OMB said today that, indeed, it will not be on time this year.  Many government agencies, including NASA and NOAA, just reopened after a record 35-day shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations.

The Administration also reestablished a unified combatant command, U.S. Space Command. That does not need congressional approval.  Whoever will lead the command requires Senate confirmation, however.  Shanahan said today “we do have a person that we’re going to move through in terms of who would lead the Space Command.  I’m not going to mention the individual’s name, but that — that is moving its way through the process.”

A key element of the effort to improve acquisition of space systems is creating a Space Development Agency (SDA).  Details have not been officially released, but last week Inside Defense reported on an internal DOD memo that indicates it will be overseen by Griffin.

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