Space Force Activates STARCOM While USSPACECOM HQ Debate Heats Up

Space Force Activates STARCOM While USSPACECOM HQ Debate Heats Up

Today’s activation of the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) completes the organization of the U.S. Space Force. It joins two other field commands in filling out the structure of the nation’s newest military service. Meanwhile, the debate over how the decision was made to move the headquarters of U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) to Alabama is heating up after a surprise revelation by former President Trump.

Established in December 2019 by the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the U.S. Space Force (USSF) is the sixth military service. The others are the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Just as the Marines are part of the Department of the Navy, Space Force is part of the Department of the Air Force.

The USSF has three field commands, all of which now are in place: Space Operations Command (SPOC), Space Systems Command (SSC), and Space Training and Operations Command (STARCOM). Like all the military services, USSF is headquartered at the Pentagon. Two of its field commands, STARCOM and SPOC, are located at Peterson Space Force Base, CO.  The third, SSC, formerly Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, is at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA.

Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations (CSO) and head of USSF, presided over a ceremony today to formally establish STARCOM.

“The stand-up of STARCOM is a critical step in aligning education, training, and test and evaluation units under one command, in support of the nation’s newest military Service. With our three field commands and commanders now in place, we continue to transition from inventing the force to integrating it, with a targeted focus on developing combat-ready space forces and delivering critical space warfighting capabilities to joint and coalition forces.”

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond at ceremony standing up the U.S. Space Force Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) at Peterson Space Force Base, CO, August 23, 2021. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

Brig. Gen. Shawn Bratton, Air National Guard, commands STARCOM.  Members of the USSF are called Guardians and Bratton said today that “STARCOM will prepare every Guardian to prevail in conflict through innovative warfighting capabilities and tactics that keep USSF ahead of any emerging threat.”  The command’s five goals are to build the USSF training enterprise, develop a domain-focused education enterprise, develop space doctrine and tactics, build the test and range infrastructure, and develop and reinforce Space Force culture.

As part of the Air Force, the Space Force is overseen by Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. He, CSO Raymond, and SSC commander Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein all are on tap to speak at the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium tomorrow along with Gen. James Dickinson, Commander of U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM).

USSPACECOM is one of the 11 unified combatant commands that conduct warfighting. The USSF and the other military services organize, train and equip military forces, who are assigned to the combatant commands as needed.

The symposium is in Colorado Springs, CO, home of Peterson SFB. Not only are the USSF’s STARCOM and SPOC located there, but USSPACECOM headquarters. At least for now.

A week before former President Trump left office, the Air Force announced that USSPACECOM would move to Huntsville, AL, prompting an outcry from the Colorado congressional delegation and others who think it would be wasteful to relocate all those personnel and facilities a thousand miles away. They asserted the decision was politically motivated.

The Air Force insisted it followed the rules, but the DOD Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are both investigating how the decision was made and whether it complied with DOD policies.

On Friday, Trump surprised everyone by proclaming during an interview (at about 11:50 on the tape) with an Alabama radio station that he “single-handedly” made the decision himself because “they wanted it. I said let’s go to Alabama. Look, I love Alabama.”

Colorado’s two Senators immediately responded. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) said Trump’s “admission suggests that national security and cost were clearly not his priorities” and “further underscores why we need to investigate the previous administration’s last minute decision to uproot Space Command from its home in Colorado Springs.” Sen. John Hicklenlooper (D) said Trump “admitted what we already knew: that he made a strictly political decision to move Space Command and completely disregarded both critical national security and budgetary considerations.”

The actual move of USSPACECOM to Alabama is not planned for another 5-6 years, so there is plenty of time to revisit the decision if the DOD IG and GAO determine it is necessary. Even former Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett left open the possibility that Huntsville might not be the ultimate location when she made the announcement in January, saying it was the “preferred location” but the other sites under consideration “remain reasonable alternatives” and a final decision would be made in the spring of 2023.

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