U.S. Space Command Reestablished After 17-Year Hiatus

U.S. Space Command Reestablished After 17-Year Hiatus

The United States once again has a unified combatant command dedicated to defending the space domain.  President Trump presided over a Rose Garden ceremony today where Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed papers officially establishing U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) while Vice President Pence and Gen. John (Jay) Raymond looked on.  Raymond is now the commander of USSPACECOM as well as Commander of Air Force Space Command.  Meanwhile, Congress continues to work on legislation to create a Space Force as a new military service.

USSPACECOM is the country’s 11th unified command.  The other 10 span regional or functional areas ranging from U.S. Northern Command to U.S. Strategic Command to U.S. Cyber Command.  They provide command of military forces both in times of peace and war across the military services.  By contrast, the five services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) “organize, train, and equip” the military.

The original USSPACECOM was created in 1985, but abolished in 2002 after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks led to a restructuring of the unified commands.  The George W. Bush Administration wanted to create a new Northern Command, but keep the total number at 10.  That meant one had to go, and that was USSPACECOM.

Much has changed since then.  The United States is increasingly dependent on space assets not only for national security purposes, but everyday life, like the GPS satellite system that enables car navigation and cell phone systems to work. For the past two years, military and civilian DOD officials have been pressing their conclusion that space no longer is a benign environment, but a warfighting domain just like the air, sea, land, and cyber.  As more countries like India join Russia and China in developing antisatellite systems, the United States must be prepared in case a terrestrial war extends into space.

Protecting space assets is now the domain of USSPACECOM.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signs documents re-establishing U. S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) while USSPACECOM Commander Gen. John Raymond, President Trump, and Vice President Pence look on. White House Rose Garden, August 29, 2019. Photo credit: Marcia Smith

Trump said this is a “landmark day” for the nation that “recognizes the centrality of space to America’s national security and defense.”

Under General Raymond’s leadership, SPACECOM will boldly deter aggression and outpace America’s rivals, by far. … SPACECOM will ensure that America’s dominance in space is never questioned and never threatened, because we know the best way to prevent conflict is to prepare for victory.  — President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump makes remarks at the White House Rose Garden on the occasion of re-establishing U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM), with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and USSPACECOM Commander Gen. John Raymond. August 29, 2019. Photo credit: Marcia Smith

Most of the original USSPACECOM was melded into U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).  Now the process will be reversed. USSPACECOM will be initially located at Peterson Air Force Base, CO.  The permanent home is still under discussion. The Air Force picked six sites as finalists — four in Colorado (Peterson AFB, Buckley AFB, Schreiver AFB, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station), one in California (Vandenberg AFB), and one in Alabama (Redstone Arsenal). Politicians from each state are angling for it.

Separately, Trump wants to create a new military service, the U.S. Space Force, as part of the Air Force.  That requires congressional approval.  The House and Senate have passed somewhat different versions in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.  The House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) are in the process of negotiating a compromise.

SASC Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) praised today’s establishment of USSPACECOM calling it “an important step to support the space warfighting domain” and the next step will be creating U.S. Space Force.  HASC chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) had not issued a statement by press time.

The idea of a Space Corps originated at HASC two years ago, analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  After many twists and turns, that essentially is what the Trump Administration has proposed, but under the name Space Force. The Trump Administration’s long term goal is a new military department, not just a military service, that is “separate but equal” from the Air Force.

Trump started today’s event by announcing that he will not be traveling to Poland this weekend because of the impending arrival of Hurricane Dorian.  Pence will go instead and Trump will reschedule his visit.  Hurricane forecasters are not certain where Dorian will hit, but Governor deSantis has declared a state of emergency throughout Florida.  NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, and commercial space companies in the Cape Canaveral area are busy battening down the hatches in case Dorian comes that way.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com 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.