As U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper and the AFWERX innovation arm try to get more non-traditional firms into the military space business under the U.S. Space Force, classification–or overclassification, as some Air Force officials have termed it–is one prominent challenge.
“We’re going to have to be able to work in a multi-classification environment,” Air Force Maj. Gen. John Shaw, the U.S. Space Force’s commander of space operations command and the commander of U.S. Space Command’s combined force space component command, told the AFWERX EngageSpace virtual forum on Sept. 29. “Part of that has to be on the government to make that classification environment more adaptable and friendly to these kinds of initiatives, but we’re still going to have to work on that environment. How do we do that best? And I think later for like the one [virtual forum] we’re in right now, it may be happening in various classification levels, but still with very basic principles of DevSecOps.”
The latter includes practices that integrate cybersecurity into the rapid development and fielding of software advances.
Shaw praised U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond’s efforts to make the new military service the first wholly digital one.
“The fundamental approach to all this is question everything,” Shaw said. “Don’t repeat what we’ve always done. Gen. Raymond’s been terrific, his idea of a digital service, about questioning the way we’ve done things before is larger bureaucracies, which a Space Force cannot afford for so many reasons. Number one, it’s not going to be very big ever in terms of human capital. Number two, it has to move at the speed of war and the speed of technology. I’m fond of saying that space and cyber are best friends forever. Anything that is at the cutting edge of technology in the cyber arena is going to be something that we’re interested in [in] space. So we’re questioning everything, trying to say, ‘Let’s not do it the old way. Let’s come up with ways of doing things that make the other services jealous of what we’re doing,’ and they say, ‘We want to be like the Space Force.'”
On Sept. 1, Space Force said that it began inducting more than 2,400 active-duty Air Force members in space operations and space systems operations career fields across 175 locations globally into the U.S. Space Force–an effort that is to go through this fall. Space Force selected the 2,400 from 8,500 applicants, and Shaw said that such selective recruiting, versus the traditional, large numbers recruiting methods of the other military services, would be a hallmark of the new service.
The Space Force requested $15.4 billion in fiscal 2021, including about $2.5 billion for research and development, $2.5 billion for procurement, and $10.3 billion for operations and maintenance. By comparison, the Air Force budget request is $153.6 billion, the Army’s $178 billion, and the Navy’s $207.1 billion.
“I’m not entirely sure that the Space Force has a solid future, given the nature of the way policy has evolved,” said M.V. “Coyote” Smith, a retired Air Force colonel and an associate professor of strategic space studies in the department of spacepower at the Air Command and Staff College at Air University in Montgomery, Ala.
“The Space Force is viewed by many as being something that Pres. Trump invented, and many are anxious to erase it,” he said. “Many of those, I suspect, are in the Air Force itself simply so they can continue, in my humble opinion, benefiting from the additional money and people that accrue to the Air Force for having space.”
Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has yet to reveal whether he intends to keep the Space Force. Some analysts believe that the Space Force has gathered momentum and that Biden will sustain the new service, if he is elected on Nov. 3. Defense Daily had not heard back from the Biden campaign for comments on his plans for the Space Force by press time on Sept. 29.
“One of the things that us close observers of this organization [Space Force] have noted that makes us worried that there might be some political set up for disestablishing the Space Force is that the leaders have not stepped forward to expand the roles and missions of what they are doing,” Smith said. “They are still stuck in the mindset that they do nothing but support to the warfighter, ignoring the fact that GPS’ valuation annually is over $350 billion to the economy. It’s almost like a disabusement of their own roles and missions that they do anyway. We expected them to step up and say they need to begin growing a space cadre now that can provide such things as space traffic management, space debris mitigation and removal, law enforcement on orbit, much like our Coast Guard does. There are all these titles under U.S. Code that need to be performed in space just as they are on our oceans on earth.”
Smith said that NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Space Force, and the national laboratories should collaborate to grow a space cadre of several hundred thousand personnel.
“The Air Force has given us a Space Force of only 2,400 people, and all of the support comes from the Air Force,” Smith said. “You know how that’s going to play out,”