U.S. Space Force Turns Two

U.S. Space Force Turns Two

The U.S. Space Force is celebrating its second birthday today. Space Force officials say the first year was about inventing this new military service and the second on putting it into action. What’s next? To keep delivering.

Birthday congratulations were tweeted by everyone from President Biden to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Congressman Mike Rogers, one of the key congressional leaders in creating the Space Force, the first new military service since the Air Force was established in 1947.

Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) were the bipartisan duo who started the ball rolling in 2017 that led to creation of the Space Force. They wanted to call it a Space Corps, akin to the Marine Corps that is part of the Department of the Navy. In the end, that is what was created in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), although it was named Space Force, not Corps. Nonetheless, it is part of the Department of the Air Force, not a separate department.

The Trump Administration initially opposed it, but in March 2018 President Trump suddenly threw his support behind the idea and in June 2018 very publicly directed DOD to fall in line and work with Congress to get it done. He wanted a separate Department of the Space Force, but settled for a new service within the Air Force.

Space Force is one of the six military services that “organize, train and equip” personnel. It and the U.S. Air Force comprise the Deparment of the Air Force. The Department of the Navy is comprised of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. Army is a Department unto itself.

The Space Force is often confused with U.S. Space Command, one of the 11 Unified Combatant Commands in charge of warfighting. Trump reestablished U.S. Space Command in August 2019 after a 17-year hiatus. The combatant commands fight wars using personnel and equipment provided by the military services.

Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations of the U.S. Space Force, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger Towberman offered their own birthday congratulations today.

Raymond was dual-hatted as Commander of U.S. Space Command and Commander of Air Force Space Command (which essentially became the U.S. Space Force) on December 20, 2019 when Trump signed the FY2020 NDAA at a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

President Donald J. Trump hands a certificate to Gen. Jay Raymond after signing the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, December 20, 2019, while Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looks on. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In the video today, Raymond pointed out that two years ago there was only one member of the Space Force (himself) and now there are 6,650 Guardians (the designation for military members of the Space Force) and an almost equal number of civilians. Intent on keeping the Space Force lean and agile, he created just three field commands as the organizational structure of the service, all of which are now in place: Space Operations Command, Space Systems Command, and Space Training and Readiness Command.

Last week, Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno, Space Force Director of Staff, told the Washington Space Business Roundtable that the creation of Space Force was quite a surprise for many in the Pentagon. Although they had been planning for it, “they thought they would have years to stand up the service, but instead they had months or even days in some cases.”

Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno, Director of Staff, U.S. Space Force. Credit: U.S. Space Force

Armagno acknowledged that the Space Force was the butt of a lot of jokes in its first year, sparked in part by the Netflix comedy of the same name, which she agrees is quite funny. But the service has come a long way since then.

The Space Force is new, but what it does is not. Armagno has a 32-year career in what used to be Air Force space programs and is the only person to have commanded both Air Force launch wings at Cape Canaveral, FL and Vandenberg, CA.

Among the accomplishments during the first year, she said, was creating the new service, publishing its first doctrine, and separating its budget from the Air Force all without skipping a beat in executing its mission. In the second year, the focus was integrating the Space Force across the DOD and with other agencies, with industry, and with allies and partners.

“As I look toward year three, my mission each day will be to drive the Space Force to keep delivering. Keep delivering new capabilities at operationally relevant speeds. Keep delivering on our commitment to promote norms of responsible behavior in space, and most imperatively, keep delivering space power to the joint force.”

Congress will also be watching to see how Space Force evolves. A major driver for separating it from the Air Force was to improve acquisition of space systems to keep pace with threats from adversaries. That is still a work in progress. The FY2022 NDAA, which is awaiting signature by the President after passing the House on December 7 and the Senate on December  15, has a list of other congressional directives and concerns, but overall the Space Force seems to have cemented its position in the fabric of the U.S. military.

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