A group of 43 former Defense Department, Air Force and intelligence officials signed an open letter that expresses “strong support for establishing the U.S. Space Force,” SpaceNews informed.
Martin Faga, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, was one of several organizers who recruited signatures. “We are excited that so many senior level people signed it,” including former Defense Secretary Bill Perry and other former officials who served on both Republican and Democratic administrations, Faga told SpaceNews. “Nobody in the Trump administration asked us to do this,” he said.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan oversaw the writing of the Space Force legislative proposal that was submitted to defense committees on Capitol Hill in late February. Shanahan and members of his staff have briefed congressional staffs on the proposal as committees prepare to start marking up the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act later this month, SpaceNews added.
Questions and comments by lawmakers in recent weeks suggest support for Space Force legislation is far from guaranteed. Members continue to raise concerns about the cost of a new service, and many still don’t understand why it’s needed or what specifically the Air Force is doing wrong in space that needs to be fixed. Some consider the Space Force a random idea of the Trump administration so the letter was meant to show that the proposal is supported by military and civilian space experts.
Faga acknowledged there is considerable skepticism on Capitol Hill about the need for a Space Force and even if the new branch is authorized, it is almost certain that Congress will modify the administration’s proposal. He said the problem with DoD’s proposal and how it has been communicated is that it’s too focused on the bureaucratic and organizational details and not on the larger question of why the United States should have a Space Force. “We’re trying to answer the question of ‘why’,” Faga said.
The letter says the U.S. Space Force will “develop military space culture and ethos; recruit, train, educate, promote, and retain scientists, engineers, and warriors with world-class space skills and talent; advocate for space requirements and resources; develop space doctrine and operational art; develop, field, and deliver advanced space capabilities; and steward resources to sustain America’s strategic advantage and preeminence in national security space activities.”
Faga said DoD has to do a better job answering basic questions that members of Congress have raised rather than getting bogged down in organizational charts. He would advise DoD to listen to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “He has asked some of the best questions at hearings,” Faga said. King has said he is not opposed to the Space Force but remains skeptical. “And he didn’t get great answers,” Faga said.
The letter says the establishment of a new military service for space is “necessary for putting America on a path to effectively deter conflict from beginning in or extending into space, and, if deterrence fails, to defeat hostile actions and protect our economic and national security interests in space.”
The organization and management of space activities has been a long-running debate, the letter says. “The establishment of the U.S. Space Force as an independent armed service within the Department of the Air Force is a fiscally responsible approach to address the issue.”