During this week the Defense Department will take the first steps to create the Space Force, a new branch of the military ordered up by President Trump but not yet fully backed by Congress, Defense One informed.
Defense Department leaders are planning to set 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 warfighting community that draws space operators from all service branches. All of these sweeping changes are the part that Pentagon can do without lawmakers’ approval.
The fourth component though, which is an entirely new branch of the military with services and support functions such as financial management and facilities construction, will require congressional action. Defense officials plan to spend the rest of 2018 building a “legislative proposal for the authorities necessary to fully establish the Space Force.”
It is envisioned that this proposal would go to Congress early next year as part of the Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal. The plan, which has been reviewed by Defense One, is developed for execution by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and will go to lawmakers on Wednesday.
“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.
The draft report adds that the Pentagon will 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, Defense One notes.
“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. European Command.
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 Reserve. “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,” the report says.
However, there are those who doubt that the new service would be successful, per CNBC. A former secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, warned that a new service branch would worsen problems plaguing the U.S. military’s space efforts.
“It is a virtual certainty that it [a space force] will be a huge undertaking that will consume a lot of time, effort, thinking,” Deborah Lee James, 23rd secretary of the Air Force and principal defense space adviser for the Obama administration, said at the Brookings Institution on Monday.
“I do not believe we should have a separate space force. The myriad of details which people joke about, the academies, the uniforms and what not, those may seem trivial but they are details that need to be worked out,” James stressed, raising concerns that the proposed space force will be buried in bureaucratic minutiae.
James also pointed out that the Pentagon’s top brass is also hesitant to form a new military branch. “None of them are in favor of a space force but they are stuck. The President has said it and it will be interesting to see how they now deal with it,” she said.