by Marcus Weisgerber
United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket
carrying the third Mobile User Objective System satellite
U.S. Navy creates a light trail
lifts off on Jan. 20, 2015.
DoD will start
a new combatant
and a new Space
The U.S. Defense Department this week will take the first steps to
the Space Force, a new branch of
ordered up by President Trump
but not yet fully backed by Congress.
In coming months, Defense Department leaders plan to stand up three
of the four components of the new Space Force:
a new combatant
command for space, a new joint agency to buy satellites for the
military, and a new war-fighting community that draws space
operators from all service branches.
These sweeping changes -
on par with the past decade's establishment of cyber forces - are
the part the Pentagon can do without lawmakers' approval.
Creating the fourth component - an entirely new branch of the
military with services and support functions such as financial
management and facilities construction - will require congressional
Defense officials plan to
spend the rest of 2018 building a,
for the authorities necessary to fully establish the Space
That would go to Congress
early next year as part of the Trump administration's 2020 budget
This plan, developed for execution by Deputy Defense Secretary
Patrick Shanahan, the Pentagon's No. 2 civilian, is laid out in
a 14-page draft report slated to go to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Defense One reviewed a
draft of the report dated July 30.
"The Department of
Defense is establishing a Space Force to protect our economy
through deterrence of malicious activities, ensure our space
systems meet national security requirements and provide vital
capabilities to joint and coalition forces across the spectrum
of conflict," says the draft report.
"DoD will usher in a
new age of space technology and field new systems in order to
deter, and if necessary degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy and
manipulate adversary capabilities to protect U.S. interests,
assets and way of life…
This new age will
unlock growth in the U.S. industrial base, expand the commercial
space economy and strengthen partnerships with our allies."
The Pentagon declined to
comment on the report in advance of its formal release later this
The draft report says the Pentagon will, by year's end, establish an
eleventh unified combatant command:
U.S. Space Command.
Like U.S. Special
Operations Command, which oversees special forces composed of
service-members and organizations drawn from various service
branches, the four-star Space Command will oversee space forces from
across the military.
The proposal goes even
further than lawmakers demanded in the 2019 National Defense
Authorization Act, which
orders the Pentagon to create a
space command under U.S. Strategic Command.
"The Department will
recommend that the President revise the Unified Campaign Plan to
create the new U.S. Space Command by the end of 2018 and
evaluate the need for any additional personnel, responsibilities
and authorities," the draft report says.
Initially, the Pentagon
will recommend that the head of Air Force Space Command also serve
as the commander of U.S. Space Command.
Space liaisons will be
installed in the geographic combatant commands, starting with U.S.
The draft report says the Pentagon will also stand up a Space
Operations Force, made up of uniformed and civilian space
personnel from the four military services and the National Guard and
"Similar to Special
Forces personnel provided by all military services, the Space
Operations Force will be composed of the space personnel from
all Military Services, but developed and managed as one
community," it says.
This force would come
the goal is to deploy
"teams of space experts" to U.S. European Command and U.S.
Indo-Pacific Command by next summer.
New Ways to
The draft report heralds seismic changes in how the Pentagon buys,
launches, and develops new technology for its satellites, including
organizational and cultural shifts to emphasize speed and
It also plans a bigger
role for private-sector space companies,
"as commercial and
government entities ‘move toward the center' on requirements,
regulation and compliance."
The centerpiece of this
effort is a new joint office, dubbed the Space Development Agency,
to oversee new satellite-development and space-launch contracts.
"Major existing space
acquisition programs will remain in current service
organizations, and aggressively pursue improved performance,
while the Space Development Agency develops and fields the
capabilities outlined in the DoD Space Vision," the draft report
"Over time, as
current programs complete, resources will shift from service
space acquisition organizations to the Space Development
The biggest impact will
be on the Air Force.
The move clouds the
future of the service's Space and Missile Systems Center, the
6,000-person organization in Los
Angeles that currently oversees about 85 percent of DoD's space
procurement budget - and which was
recently restructured to speed the
purchase and launch of satellites.
The report calls this
overhaul "the start."
Like the Missile Defense Agency, the Space Development
Agency would oversee acquisition projects across the various
military services. Its size will be determined by a,
committee in partnership with the intelligence community," the
Its location will be
process that considers locations that best enable the Agency to
attract talent, leverage commercial expertise and develop new
capabilities at speed and scale."
Currently, the Air Force
has hubs for space in Colorado, California, and Florida.
The Army and Missile
Defense Agency have a large presence in Huntsville, Alabama, an
area nicknamed "Rocket City" for its large role in NASA and military
The city is also known as
"Pentagon South" due to the high concentration of Defense Department
The report, which responds to a congressional mandate in the 2018
Defense Authorization Act, was largely written by Shanahan's office
and by Stephen Kitay, deputy assistant defense secretary for
space policy, according to a senior defense official.
Air Force officials were
largely cut out of the review process several weeks ago, the
official - and another source with knowledge of the decision - said
on the condition of anonymity to speak about the yet-to-be-released
From Idea to
The idea of creating a new service-level organization to handle the
military's space operations has been contentious since lawmakers
proposed to attach a space corps to
the Air Force, along the lines of the Marine Corps and the Navy.
including Trump's own Air Force Secretary, largely opposed that
move. But in recent months, the president has mulled, and then
stated his desire for, a Space Force.
If it becomes reality, it
would be the first new branch of the military since the Air Force
was born out of the Army Air Corps in 1947.
"Both the chief of
staff and I are actually very glad that… people are becoming
more aware and having a debate about what we do about this as a
That just wasn't
really there before," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said
during a Washington Post
event on July 25.
"I think the most important thing is to say focused on the
warfighter and maintaining the lethality of the service, no
matter how the org-chart boxes go," Wilson said.
"It's all about the
ability to fight. If we keep focused on that and not on which
boxes move around which place in the Pentagon, then we'll do the
right thing for the nation."
predecessor, Deborah Lee James - who served as Air Force
secretary during the
administration - said Monday that she
opposes a Space Force, but supports
the creation of a combatant command, like the one discussed in
She made her comments at
a Brookings Institution event in Washington. In recent years,
the Air Force made
numerous changes within its space
arm to defend against Russian and Chinese interference.
This week, the Pentagon
is poised to announce a shift from "few independent" satellite
constellations to a,
low-Earth orbit architecture enabled by lower-cost commercial
pace technology and access."
Air Force officials
hinted at these changes earlier
this year when Shanahan visited Air Force Space Command in Colorado.
The Air Force operates 77 satellites in orbit while the Navy has 12
communications satellites, Wilson said.
really pretty fragile things and so we have to think now about
how do we defend a constellation. It not always just direct
defense," she said.
"It may be that we
distribute a network. If you have multiple nodes it's inherently
more resilient than if you're relying on one thing. Some it may
be maneuverability. Some of it may be deception.
There's a lot of ways
to make sure the United States can take a punch and keep on