A 13-page document produced by the Department of Defense aims to serve as the beginnings of a framework that will lead to the establishment of the U.S. Space Force; an entirely new branch of the American armed forces dedicated to orbital military operations.
According to sources within the Pentagon, the existing 13-page draft will continue to mature in terms of content and strategy before it’s sent along to Congress in February, alongside the Defense Department’s funding requests for the 2020 fiscal year. That means the new branch may not come to fruition exactly as stated within the draft document, as there remains a great deal of debate, deliberation, and political posturing left to do before the first service member in this new branch gets a chance to lace up their space boots.
Notably, the document outlines plans to draw personnel from the Army, Navy, and Air Force in order to establish baseline staffing for the new force. These branches already possess some degree of space-based capabilities, particularly the Air Force, who currently oversees the U.S. Space Command. The basic framework for the new branch will come from absorbing elements of Air Force Space Command, the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, the Naval Satellite Operations Center, and the Army’s 1st Space Brigade. The by-name inclusion of these branches, however, may come as a disappointment to Marines everywhere that were among the first to get on board with a new space-branch after Congress proposed it last year under a slightly different title: the Space Corps.
Further staffing would include a pilot program that would allow the Space Force to rapidly recruit personnel from the civilian sector for a “defined period after which the individual would return to civilian life.”
These branches would retain operational oversight over the facilities that already exist within their purview, meaning the current Air Force Space Command facilities in Colorado, California, and Florida would remain Air Force assets until the new branch “reaches an appropriate operating capacity.” Those branches won’t be left bereft of any space-related work to do, however, as the document also lays out the need to allow each branch to retain space capabilities that are deemed “organic” to their operational structure. Missile defense and the function of America’s ICBM arsenal, for instance, would not be transferred to the Space Force despite the weapon platforms tending to enter into low earth orbit.
“Additionally, each Service may retain a cadre of space experts that serve as liaisons to advocate for and potentially operate space-related capabilities unique to its respective domain,” the document reads.
The document also suggests that the Space Force will not absorb the intelligence gathering responsibilities of the National Reconnaissance Office, one of the elements of the Air Force’s cost projection of the Space Force that has since been accused of exaggerating the costs and scope of this new force as part of a political effort to retain space as an area of responsibility for the Air Force. President Trump was rumored to be considering replacing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson as a result of this sort of apparent foot-dragging, but thus far, no personnel changes have materialized.