The Beginning Of A New Military Service — The United States Space Force

Satellite from space

Space Warfighting – Go Boldly!

“Why—and why now?” you might ask. The space domain, while one would hope could remain a quiet, cold vacuum that serves mankind, has heated up due to multiple irresponsible – and aggressive actions – of hostile global actors. These actions formalized space as the next warfighting domain and accelerated the need for a National Defense Strategy that guides the direction of the U.S. into the new frontier and led to the creation of the United States Space Force to operate in this unique domain – and to prevail if challenged in it.

Early in 2019, a select team of military and civilian defense professionals presented a draft plan to build a new military service focused on space to Congress. The plan they crafted was far-reaching, bureaucratic, and costly. When they presented the plan to the congressional defense committees, it did not receive a warm reception. 

The congressional staff assigned to examine and review the proposal focused squarely on the space warfighting domain, limiting bureaucracy and minimizing cost for the new service. They began an almost year-long process to draft, refine, and review language that would be both bipartisan and bicameral, and fully support the NDS.

This process continued from mid-February 2019 through the very beginning of December 2019. There were many opportunities for the effort to be set-aside due to other priorities, and the issues of cost and bureaucracy were regularly examined and refined. Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees worked together to draft the language that would ultimately create the Space Force. 

Through almost daily negotiations, the bill markup, and conference sessions, a final FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was produced. Within the NDAA, the language for the Space Force Act was finalized. The NDAA was fully bipartisan and kept bureaucracy and costs to a minimum. The language also ensured inclusion of the Space Force as the sixth military service within the Department of Defense, and firmly established the mission of operations in the space warfighting domain. 

There were still many skeptical members who thought it may be too much too soon but once Congress agreed, the President signed the bill into law on December 20, 2019. This created the new service—and it established the new Service’s birthday and pushed the launch button to get up and running as soon as possible.

So — a new Service. There has not been a new military service since the Air Force was established in 1947 — 72 years prior to the U.S. Space Force. Not only did that early establishment take time, but it was also fraught with division and rejection by the Army and the Navy. In fact, in Congressional Hearing transcripts, many service opponents thought it would never take flight. Once established, it took almost 11 years to fully establish the United States Air Force. Those years were tough, especially in getting recognition of the new Air warfighting domain. 

The Space Force has some of the same challenges. Getting the new Force established into law was the easy part, making it a full-fledged service with a specific warfighting domain had to be initiated. On 21 December 2019, the Space Force leadership did just that, stepping up to craft doctrine, organization, leadership, facilities, training, personnel, and materiel to support the new service. 

Policy was also added to ensure that the new service be fully integrated into the Joint Warfighting construct. Granted, while planning was occurring all throughout 2019, the initiation of the new service planning ramped up in December and continues today. The 11-year timeline for the USAF was old news…. this had to be done fast and furious — the National Defense Strategy demands it.

For those who are unaware of many of the details in the US Space Force, some are listed below. (These are not all the details, the final bill was more than 4,000 pages, but the most important ones as the new service was established:)

  1. The goal was to maximize the Space Force for the minimum cost and bureaucracy.
  2. The title of the new service was a focus—Force vs. Corps. After much negotiation, the term Force was chosen. The space domain is a new warfighting domain—and the United States Space Force (USSF) was established as a sixth, separate Armed Service within the Department of the Air Force.
  3. The USSF was included in Title 10 of the United States Code. Title 10 outlines the responsibilities of armed forces in the United States. It provides the legal basis for the roles, missions, and organization of each of the services as well as the United States Department of Defense.
  4. Specifications of a four-star USSF Chief of Space Operations (CSO) instead of a Chief of Staff. The CSO focuses on Space Operations and implies a streamlined staff for the Service.
  5. The CSO reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force, as the USSF is firmly established within the Department of the Air Force. 
  6. For the first year, the CSO is dual-hatted both as the USSF Chief of Space Operations as well as the Commander of United States Space Command (USSPACECOM). After the first year, the positions will split into two separately assigned individuals.
  7. The Chief of Space Operations will be added as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) after one year. This decision was accelerated and the CSO was made a full member of the JCS on 21 December 2019, upon enactment of the FY2020 NDAA.
  8. The Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration was established (ASAF/SP) and will oversee and direct the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (SpRCO) and the Space Development Agency (SDA) as direct reporting agencies. At present, both the SMC and SpRCO have executed their reporting chain, while the SDA has requested additional time to move to the ASAF/SP. 
  9. Service Acquisition Executive (SAE): the SAE remains under the USAF until 1 October 2022, at which time there will be a second SAE appointed to oversee all Space Force Systems and Programs. A required report on the approach to Space Acquisition was also required to be submitted to the congressional committees.
  10. The position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy was established upon the enactment of the NDAA.
  11. The USSF was restricted from making any changes to military installations—to use what presently exists to reduce cost and bureaucracy.
  12. Funding for the USSF was allocated at $40M for FY2020—reduced from an original request of $72.4M in the FY2020 President’s Budget.
  13. A Total Force solution was included in the USSF fully incorporating the Reserves in the new Service; discussions on National Guard assignment are ongoing.
  14. Multiple reports, briefings are required for the SECAF and the CSO—to provide information to inform Congress in its oversight role.

In their oversight role, Congress levied many requirements and restrictions on the new Service (as is their role in Congressional Oversight) but also wanted to be kept appraised on the progress of service establishment. This oversight role will allow Congress the opportunity to assist if needed. Two recent updates from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Space Operations, adjustments and refinement are ongoing. Hearings and further briefings are planned, and the inaugural Space Acquisition and Integration Council has met and is leaning forward on multiple initiatives to integrate and synchronize the support of the space warfighters. 

One of the confusing areas continues to come up in Space Force discussions: Why both a United States Space Force (USSF) and a United States Space Command (USSPACECOM)? 

Simply put, the Space Force is an independent service with Title 10 responsibilities to organize, train, and equip forces to support operations run by U.S. Space Command (the space warfighting command) or other combatant commands. The Unified Command Plan, a POTUS-approved document, defines the role of United States Space Command (USSPACECOM), its missions, and operating areas of the combatant commands.

Parsons And The United States Space Force

Parsons and the Space Domain—perfect together! Parsons is different and always in pursuit of a better way to get mission accomplished across Federal and Critical Infrastructure business units. Parsons has been supporting and positively impacting the National Defense Strategy for over seventy-five years. Our customers know our contributions and we have been delivering value through scalable, fast, disruptive solutions to our customers’ most complex defense, intelligence, and critical infrastructure challenges. 

We provide deep domain expertise to develop solutions both for now and for the future. Finally, we bring everything together with an unmatched cybersecurity toolset. These qualifications help to present a formidable solution for the emerging Space Force. Our present work in space spans from small Satellite launch integration to payload development, as well as space cyber & electronic warfare resiliency. 

We are key providers of Space Domain Awareness and are contributing directly to the future of Space Security and Defense. We are the provider of choice the new service needs—and every member of the Parsons team can Go Boldly to support the newest Armed Service in the United States.

About The Author

John “J.R.” Riordan is former senior vice president of business development for our Space and Geospatial Solutions market. J.R.’s previous experience includes the Senate Armed Services Committee where he led the Congressional establishment of the United States Space Force. A proven military strategist, policy expert, and business executive whose knowledge of the defense and political environments advances our growth in the federal market. He currently leads the account management, business development, and customer engagement of the company’s space portfolio for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community.

Be the first to receive updates about Parsons news, events, and innovations. Subscribe Today!

Back to top
facebook-pixel linkedin-pixel linkedin pixel focused image