The White House and the Defense Department plan to formally stand up the newest unified combatant command dedicated to space by the end of this month, officials said Aug. 20.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed at the National Space Council meeting Tuesday that U.S. Space Command will be formally established Aug. 29.

Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander, briefs Airmen during an all-call at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, July 29, 2019. The all-call addressed resiliency, space warfighting culture and Schriever’s importance to national security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers)

“When the vice president presides over the service, we will immediately assign 87 units under a single combatant command” to maintain a competitive advantage in the space warfighting domain, he said.

Air Force Space Command Commander Gen. John “Jay” Raymond was confirmed by the Senate in June to lead the new Space Command. He will continue to serve in a dual-hat capability for the time being; the Senate-passed version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act has him serving in a dual role for one year before the two command positions would be separated.

“When Gen. Raymond assumes command, he’s going to bring together capabilities that include missile warning, satellite operations, space control and space support,” Dunford said, and reaffirmed the department’s commitment to the Space Command. “The direction is clear. We understand it and we’re moving out.”

The Defense Department has not yet selected a headquarters location for U.S. Space Command. The Air Force earlier this year revealed that six U.S. bases were being considered, to include Vandenberg AFB, California; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; and four in Colorado: Buckley AFB, Shriever AFB, Peterson AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station (Defense Daily, May 15).

Dunford, who is scheduled to retire in September, reiterated the department’s support for standing up a new Space Force along with U.S.  Space Command.

“This initiative is going to have a positive impact on … the capabilities that we’re going to need in the future,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence, third from left, addresses members at the sixth meeting of the National Space Council, Aug. 20 2019. (Screenshot: White House)

The fate of the Space Force – proposed as a new separate and equal service within the U.S. military, placed within the Department of the Air Force – remains with Congress. Lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are expected to come to a decision as to whether, how, and when a Space Force will be established as they work on a conference version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after returning from August recess Sept. 9.

As they consider how to merge their two versions of the NDAA and the Space Force proposals within them, Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan issued full-throated support for the establishment of a new Space Force within the Air Force at the National Space Council meeting, calling for Congress to reform Title 10 of the U.S. Code to allow the U.S. military to establish the new service.

“The U.S. Space Force will be a 21st century service designed for the information age,” he said. “We are committed to building a flat, rapid and agile organization to be the pathfinder for a modern military service … in a reasonable, responsible and most importantly, effective manner.”

Once the Space Force is established, “it is critical” for the nascent Space Development Agency (SDA) to transition to the new service, Donovan said. The SDA currently resides under the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and was stood up by Undersecretary Mike Griffin as a streamlined acquisition authority that would focus on rapid development and fielding of specific military space efforts not currently being addressed fully by the Air Force.

Donovan noted: “This agility and responsiveness will be hallmarks of the U.S. Space Force, which is why it’s critical to transition the SDA into the new service after it is established.”