Guest Commentary: May the (space) force be with you

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With the recent passage of this year’s big defense bill, Congress authorized the creation of a sixth branch of the armed forces — the United States Space Force. The move reflects the growing militarization of space, as the other branches have grown increasingly reliant on operations there. Despite criticism from spending hawks and late-night comics, the Space Force is an idea whose time has come. But the public, understandably, has questions: What will it look like? What will its mission be?

It’s worth pointing out that the U.S. hasn’t created a new branch of the military since the Air Force in 1947. While not without controversy at the time, that move simply recognized the reality at the time that air operations were going to become increasingly large and complex. This necessitated a cadre of true experts who would “grow up” thinking, planning, procuring equipment and actually conducting pure aviation in that domain — alongside the Navy at sea and the Army ashore.

That is the essential rationale for the U.S. Space Force — given the complexity and scale of operations in space, that domain requires a dedicated mission focus. Unlike Russia and China, which each have had dedicated space forces, the United States has relied largely on the U.S. Air Force to run space operations, with supporting efforts from the Army and Navy. In many cases, this puts space forces at a disadvantage in a fighter- and bomber-dominated Air Force.

The basic mission of the Space Force will be to train, equip and organize to conduct military operations in space. This means running the extensive constellation of U.S. military satellites (currently managed by the services separately depending on function); operating the military’s launch facilities such as the Air Force’s bases at Vandenberg in California and elsewhere; executing financial planning and programming to purchase satellites and ground support equipment; and above all, training a specialized cadre of space officers and enlisted men and women.

It will start small with a few hundred specialists, probably reporting to a chief of space operations (a title resembling that of the head of the U.S. Navy, the chief of naval operations). Over time it will probably grow to 10,000 to 15,000 trainers, operators and leaders whose job will be to deliver capability in space to the 10 U.S. combatant commanders — the jobs I held at four-star level both for Latin America and Europe/NATO. During my seven-plus years in command, I would have relished being able to call a fellow four-star in charge of space to levy my needs for greater surveillance, communication and targeting. My successors will be able to do so.

With that, I have three pieces of advice for the new chief of space operations, whoever he or she will be:

First, study the history. Both the creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947 and the development of the U.S. Marine Corps offer powerful lessons. Learn how the first year and the initial decade of operations unfolded for the Air Force, studying the record to see the …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

      

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