We Need to Focus on Space; We Don’t Need a ‘Space Corps’

Vice Pres. Mike Pence, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, and Air Force Space Command's Gen. John Raymond, right, visit Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB and Cheyenne Mountain for a closer look at the military's space operations, June 23, 2017.

U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt

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Vice Pres. Mike Pence, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, and Air Force Space Command's Gen. John Raymond, right, visit Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB and Cheyenne Mountain for a closer look at the military's space operations, June 23, 2017.

The US military’s top space commander wants deeper integration and more resources, not a separate Space Corps.

An amendment in the House version of the defense authorization bill calls for a separate Space Corps by 2019. While I applaud the leadership of Congress and the welcomed focus on national security in space, which I view as a national imperative, our approach is to normalize, elevate, and integrate space as a war-fighting domain. It’s an approach that’s already paying dividends.

The Air Force has been the leader in space for over 60 years. Airmen like Gen. Bernard Schriever, the father of today’s space program, developed our nation’s space capabilities in response to the nuclear threat of the Cold War. After the Cold War ended, the Air Force, along with our partners in the other military service branches, have led the integration of space capabilities into every aspect of joint military operations. You see the results of this integration on the battlefield today, in speed, precision, and lethality. There is absolutely nothing we do as a joint force that isn’t enabled by space. I repeat: nothing. That multi-domain integration is our strength and we must protect it. 

Today’s space domain is a war-fighting domain just like the air, land, and sea. The Air Force, in close partnership with U.S. Strategic Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and our coalition and commercial partners, is once again leading the effort to meet these new strategic challenges and has made significant advances over the past couple of years. In a partnership with U.S. Strategic Command and the intelligence community, the Air Force has resourced and recently established the National Space Defense Center at Schreiver Air Force Base, in Colorado, to command and control this war-fighting domain. Additionally, U.S. Strategic Command is also realigning the operational command of space to the commander of Air Force Space Command, and elevating that position from a 3-star to a 4-star commander. And continuing our focus on developing space war-fighters, the Air Force has transformed the way we train our space operators. This new model provides the advanced training necessary to respond to the growing threats we see in space. 

Related: The US Air Force Is Reorganizing to Fight in Space (By Marcus Weisgerber)
Related: Why I’m Directing The Air Force to Focus on Space (by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson)

There is more work to do, and Congress has been very helpful in highlighting some areas where we need to redouble our efforts. We must acquire space capabilities on relevant tactical timelines. We must be more agile in fielding capabilities into orbit. With the help of Congress, the Air Force has been successful at getting “Milestone Decision Authority” for key space programs back to the Air Force. This means the Air Force is responsible for major decisions during program development rather than the Office of Secretary Defense, essentially removing a layer of bureaucracy. Congress also has helped highlight the fact that space has been underrepresented in professional military education. This is another area where we are focusing our efforts to achieve the right multi-domain balance in our schools. 

Finally, we must add additional resources to national security space, beginning with the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The Air Force’s 2018 presidential budget submission requests a 20 percent increase in space funding, but more will be required. Eliminating the Budget Control Act and the practice of continuing resolutions are the surest way to provide stability back to the Defense Department’s programming efforts.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur famously said, “The history of the failure of war can almost be summed up in two words: too late. Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy. Too late in realizing the mortal danger. Too late in preparedness.” We must heed these words today. Protecting and defending our space capabilities is a national imperative. Our focus must remain on the task at hand without delay.

Gen. John W. Raymond is the commander of Air Force Space Command.

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