What Problem Does Space Force Solve? SecAF Wilson Has the Answer

What Problem Does Space Force Solve? SecAF Wilson Has the Answer

One criticism of President Trump’s proposal to create a U.S. Department of the  Space Force is that it is a solution in search of a problem.  Asked about that today, Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) Heather Wilson gave her answer as to what it will solve — the Air Force does seven things in space and is the best in the world at six of them.  The Space Force will help make it best in all seven.

Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force.  Air Force photo.

Wilson spoke at the National Press Club.  The vast majority of her talk dealt with air power, not space, but with the Space Force awash in headlines, the topic inevitably arose.

Wilson and other top Pentagon leaders were strongly opposed to a congressional proposal to create a Space Corps within the Air Force, a less dramatic proposal than Trump’s Department of the Space Force as a new military department of its own.  They only fell in line after the President specifically directed Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr,. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “carry that assignment out” at a June 18, 2018 meeting of the White House National Space Council.

She surprised many recently by submitting a memo spelling out the Air Force’s views on how to meet Trump’s “bold vision” of a Space Force, complete with a pricetag of $12.9 billion over 5 years.

The cost estimate, like the President’s proposal itself, is controversial and is only an Air Force estimate, not the Pentagon’s.  The official Administration proposal and cost estimate will be included in the FY2020 budget request that will be sent to Congress in February 2019.

The fundamental question is why a Space Force is needed at all.

Wilson’s answer today was that the Air Force does seven things in space:  weather; missile warning; GPS (positioning, navigation and timing); communications; launch; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR); and space superiority.   “The United States is the best in the world” at the first six, but not space superiority. “That is the problem we need to address.”  The Air Force’s responsibility is to “put forward a concept that carries out the President’s bold vision. … How do we make sure that we’re the best at space superiority and dominant in space.”

Space Force is one solution and requires congressional action.  Another is creating a unified combatant command, a U. S. Space Command. “I don’t think we need to wait” on that, she said, or on speeding up acquisition.

A U. S. Space Command existed from 1985-2002, but was abolished in a reorganization of the combatant commands after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Wilson was asked where the U.S. Space Command would be located and she laughed that she is being lobbied by many people on that, but the Secretary of Defense, not the Secretary of the Air Force, will make that decision.


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