A series of announcements over the past several months have shown that the launch of the sixth branch of the nation’s armed services, the United States Space Force (USSF), is fully underway. The National Defense Authorization Act, which passed in December with bipartisan support from Congress and was signed into law by the President, has enabled this transformation of the nation’s approach to national security in orbit and beyond. More implementation details are to be determined, but these events are “among the most significant reorganizations of the military since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of the Reagan years, and the first addition of a new branch since the Air Force was broken out of the Army’s Air Corps in 1947,” according to Wired.com
These efforts will mandate dramatic change in the existing Air Force Space Command (including space technology programs like Global Positioning System, Defense Meteorological Satellites, the Space-Based Infrared System and launch vehicles like Delta II, Delta IV and Atlas) as it is re-designated as the USSF – and present significant challenges ahead. This combined with the August re-establishment of U.S. Space Command as a combatant command focused on space makes for an exciting time in the space community.
For those within the broader defense and intelligence communities, there are many things to consider in terms of developing and supporting this new mandate:
- How can U.S. Space Command focus on its role as a “combatant command” while still being able to integrate with other all the armed forces?
- How will the new USSF transform itself from organizing, training and equipping services for the Department of Defense to a high-tech source of space fighters?
“This new approach to national security with the U.S. Space Force focuses on missions in the space arena, and will change the way we plan battle strategy,” says Michael Lencioni, CEO of Stellar Solutions. As a global aerospace engineering services leader with specialties in defense, cyber-security and intelligence, Stellar Solutions and companies like us have an important role to play in this new landscape.
There are many other broad questions swirling around what the USSF will become and how it will operate. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein essentially wondered this very thing, asking whether the USSF in practice will constitute “a marriage or a divorce” between the two armed services. Beyond the USSF leadership and initial staffing levels which are being finalized along with the “Comprehensive Plan for the Organizational Structure of the U.S. Space Force” report released last week, we have identified a few recommendations or issues for consideration based on our expertise with Air Force programs:
- Develop a unique “warrior culture.” As an independent service, the USSF must rapidly focus on building its culture. As it will join warfighting efforts with the other services in the Joint domains, the USSF will need to prioritize its doctrine, education, and training, while effectively establishing its own differentiators from its sister forces.
- Become more agile in acquisitions and implementation. Because the USSF will be “exotically smaller” than other forces with approximately 16,000 people to start out with, it will require greater focus and agility. Resources will come from commercial innovators (i.e. SpaceX) to quickly provide state-of-the-art hardware, software and data applications. Developing innovative ways to purchase these capabilities and refines development using commercial capabilities will be key.
- Integrate strategically with forces on the ground and in the air. Dispelling the science-fiction idea of “Star Wars” battles, real-life conflict in space would arise from Earthly disputes and likewise result in terrestrial damage. Not only will the USSF be required to work seamlessly with the other armed services and Combatant Commands, it must bring together acquisition through the SMC (Space and Missile Systems Center), SDA (Space Development Agency) and Space Rapid Capabilities Office as well as partnerships within the U.S. and with our allies. Each of these organizations must focus on the integration beyond space.
These early thoughts are informed by our significant expertise in space-based technology and leadership in the civil and defense arenas, and our Malcolm Baldrige Award-winning performance results based on innovative business practices. At Stellar Solutions, our focus on culture has direct ties to performance excellence, we “cross boundaries” to achieve strategic and innovative solutions, and we are embracing agility across all levels of our organization.
Next steps toward further defining USSF are due to happen quickly. The February 2020 Air Force Association Newsletter released last week opened with a preview of the President’s FY 2021 Budget Request, which is expected to be released next week and address the USSF with a focus on four themes:
- Inter-service connectivity for “the joint fight”
- Space operational capability
- Stand-in and standoff capabilities
- Logistics for a more expeditionary Air Force
As a committed member of the defense community with significant experience advising companies on building the relationships and creating the organization to manage complex integrations, we are looking forward to the game-changing developments, opportunities and results that are possible with the new USSF. Stellar Solutions is leading robust technology, management, and expert solutions for Department of Defense customers related to space and missile systems for national protection and security.
About the Authors:
Betsy J. Pimentel, Vice President, Defense Programs
Punch Moulton, Vice President, Cyber and Defense Support