COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Should Congress approve the creation of a new Space Force under the Air Force, the service plans to begin standing up the new branch within 90 days of the legislation being signed, and to have a fully operational Space Force by 2024.
Pentagon and Air Force officials are scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on the plan to create the DoD’s sixth branch dedicated to space as lawmakers continue to mull whether to support the effort.
Internal documents labeled “predecisional” that circulated the Pentagon last week and that were reviewed by Defense Daily shed some light on current plans for the Space Force’s transition, programs it could include and its future relationship to the intelligence community.
The documents state that the transition will be phased over five years, between fiscal years 2020 and 2024. The headquarters will be established in FY ’20 to prepare for mission transfer over the next two years, while additional force build out will occur in 2023 and 2024.
That timeline is realistic, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters Wednesday at the Space Foundation’s 35th annual Space Symposium here.
“We need to be ready to move out smartly in the event that – or when – Congress passes its legislation on a Space Force, and there are thousands of decisions that would need to be made,” she said.
The goal is to be able to stand up initial components of the Space Force, such as financial services or planners, within 90 days of the legislation being signed. That would involve about 160 personnel, Wilson said.
A work plan was developed in conjunction with all of the services and was led by a two-star Air Force general as part of the Space Force Planning Task Force, she added. It was completed on March 22 and is being reviewed by other relevant agencies, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Feedback is due back later this week, Wilson said.
The document notes that the task force aims to identify critical actions required to stand up an initial Space Staff by Oct. 1.
It reaffirms recent DoD talking points that the Space Force will cost $72 million in fiscal year 2020, and $500 million per year in additive costs once fully operational – around FY ‘24. That $500 million per year will include $300 million to maintain the Space Force headquarters, $110 million in education and training, $20 million for a “Warfare Center for Space,” $50 million for a “Space Personnel Center” and $20 for a “Doctrine Development Center.”
Final decisions are still being made regarding which capabilities and programs would transition from the current services to the Space Force. But examples cited of programs and offices moving over include the Navy’s satellite communications program, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS); the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC), Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) and satcom management overall. Examples of programs that will not be moved over include user terminals and capabilities unique to a service’s core mission.
Transfer does not necessarily mean the personnel will physically change locations, the document says. “Rather it means changing reporting, identifying clear roles and responsibilities, and establishing avenues for greater focus for space missions.”
The Space Force will be made up of about 15,000 personnel, a third of that number being civilians. The services identified 13,982 Air Force billets, 502 Army billets and 67 Navy billets that would fit under a new Space Force, and the document projects an additional 1,900 personnel will be needed for to staff the headquarters and to develop space expertise.
The document identifies over 7,000 billets from the intelligence, command-and-control, and acquisition/R&D communities that could be transferred into the Space Force by FY ’24. Over 1,100 of those would come from the NRO. The plan appears to be that the Space Force will take over Air Force Space Command elements and functions currently operated by the NRO.
However, the document emphasizes that the NRO and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) will not be absorbed by the Space Force. It notes that those agencies support all national intelligence customers including the Defense Department and that integrating them would create risk and disrupt delivery of key capabilities.
A six-month study is underway in which the defense secretary and the director of national intelligence will “create and enhance mechanisms for collaboration between DoD and the IC to increase unity of effort and the effectiveness of space operations.”
Lawmakers’ reception to the creation of a new Space Force have remained mixed, with many acknowledging the need to increase the focus on space, but expressing concern about creating additional bureaucracy.
Witnesses scheduled to testify before SASC on Thursday include Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, U.S. Strategic Command Commander Air Force Gen. John Hyten and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.