The United States Space Force, now officially the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, saw its first launch into cyberspace earlier this week, as the branch’s new website went live. SpaceForce.mil is up and running, populated with information pertaining to the new branch’s establishment, mission and future plans.
Despite the ideas many people tend to have about what a Space Force will do, the early years of this new branch will likely seem a bit boring to the casual observer. America’s space defense endeavor involves far more than concerns about foreign intervention in America’s orbital infrastructure: it also needs to worry about non-intentional threats like space debris. America’s satellite infrastructure is essential to daily operations, both at home and abroad — but it’s also vulnerable. Finding ways to mitigate vulnerabilities will be an early priority for the new branch.
As this piece is being written, the top post in SpaceForce.mil under the “news” category bears the headline:, “With the stroke of a pen, U.S. Space Force becomes a reality:” it’s a story about the signing of the 2020 National Defense Authorization bill that formally funded the new branch. It seems fitting, in this age of digital information, that a military branch would have a website and social media accounts before beginning its first formal military operations. In fact, the website itself launched shortly after Trump signed the branch into law.
“Space — there’s going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” President Trump said while signing the bill. “America’s superiority in space is absolutely vital and we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, but very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot.”
Of course, for the most part, military operations for the Space Force are going to look a lot like the efforts of the U.S. Air Force Space Command — and with good reason. With the signing of the bill, the Air Force Space Command, personnel and all, has been reassigned into the new Space Force. Those 16,000 active duty Air Force and civilian personnel will make up the majority of the Space Force for now. The Air Force personnel will remain within the Air Force administratively, unless they choose to transfer to the new branch formally.
The Pentagon says personnel will be notified in writing within 60 days of whether their occupations are moving to the Space Force, staying with the Air Force or being shared between branches. Those with jobs assigned to the Space Force, who would prefer to remain in the Air Force, will likely be given an opportunity to laterally move into a different occupational specialty. Additional personnel will be sourced over the coming 18 months, as leaders delve into the occupational specialties of each branch and look for viable candidates.
“The U.S. Space Force, an independent service singularly focused on protecting our interests and security in space, launches the nation into a new era,” Air Force leaders said in a letter to the force Dec. 20. “Forging a new service is a historic opportunity to deliver world-class capabilities to the American people.” The letter was signed by Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force Secretary, Barbara Barrett, and Gen. John Raymond, the head of U.S. Space Command.