On August 29th, US President Donald Trump, alongside Vice President Mike Pence announced the official establishment of the US Space Command.
This was a follow up on a December 18th memo in which Trump instructed the US Department of Defense the reestablish USSPACECOM, which was active between 1985 and 2002. It will focus on the protection of U.S. space assets and to strengthen the military’s posture in space as adversaries develop more advanced anti-satellite weapons.
“SPACECOM will boldly deter aggression and outpace America’s rivals,” Trump said. “Our adversaries are weaponizing Earth’s orbits with new technology targeting American satellites that are critical to both battlefield operations and our way of life at home. Our freedom to operate in space is also essential to detecting and destroying any missile launched against the United States.”
Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and USSPACECOM Commander Air Force General John “Jay” Raymond were also in attendance. Army Lt. Gen. James Dickinson was selected to be deputy commander of USSPACECOM, but is still unconfirmed by the US Senate.
Space has become a “vital domain” that is critical to the nation’s security and economy and is no longer a benign environment, Raymond said.
The command will have a “sharper mission focus on protecting and defending space assets, will have a stronger unified structure with our intelligence partners and a closer connection to partners and other U.S. warfighting commands,” he said. “Our goal is to deter conflict. The best way is to prepare to fight if deterrence were to fail.”
China and Russia currently are regarded as the most likely to pose a threat to U.S. satellites because of their rapid advances in electronic and kinetic weapons that could be used to disable or destroy satellites.
He’s been singing the same song for a while now:
“The average American may not understand just how reliant their lives are on space and the information that comes from space capabilities,” Raymond said back in July. “We all use GPS each and every day, but there’s lots of other capabilities that provide information that fuels our American way of life. Those same capabilities fuel our American way of war.”
Raymond said there are other countries trying to deny the U.S. access to those space-based capabilities. He said the new command will be responsible for protecting against that.
General Raymond was nominated for the position back in March by the POTUS.
“Raymond has been a longtime critic of the Pentagon’s procurement process. He has spoken about the slow process of acquiring space systems as a hindrance as Chinese and Russian develop anti-satellite weapons that could be aimed at U.S. spacecraft.
He has advocated for making U.S. space systems more resilient to attacks.
At the Air Force Association’s annual symposium last year, Raymond said U.S. space forces have reached a “strategic inflection point” because enemies are trying to challenge U.S. access to space and possibly deny the United States use of its satellites.
“We used to operate in a benign domain,” said Raymond. “Now we are operating in a contested domain.”
He has advocated for increased partnering with commercial companies as one way to more quickly modernize space capabilities,” Space News reported.
Initially, USSPACECOM will have a temporary headquarters of about 287 people at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. A manpower study is underway to determine the future size of the command.
Raymond said the command will start out small. The goal is to reach “initial operational capability” in the coming year and “full operational capability” in the years beyond. Of the $83.8 million requested for the command in fiscal year 2020, $8.2 million is new money and $75.6 million would be transferred from other accounts.
USSPACECOM will be supported by two key components:
- The Combined Force Space Component Command will be responsible to support military commanders around the world with space services such as GPS-based navigation, space-based data, satellite communications and missile warning;
- The Joint Task Force Space Defense at Schriever will be co-located with the National Space Defense Center and will be responsible for protecting military satellites on orbit.
Raymond said USSPACECOM will work closely with the National Reconnaissance Office. “The relationship with NRO has never been better,” he said. “We share a concept of operations. We train and exercise together.”
In conclusion, USSPACECOM is one of the Pentagon’s three major space reorganization directions. With the second being the Space Development Agency, established in March. It focuses on establishing a space architecture taking advantage of commercial technology.
Finally, still at the planning phase is the separate military service for space, which requires an authorization by the US Congress and a revision of Title 10 of the U.S. Code that governs the U.S. armed forces.
To go with the new establishment, USSPACECOM has a new website, as well, with articles praising US space capability superiority. The website, without taking anything away from its charm, could’ve been made to resemble a middle school information technology class project a little less, but maybe that’s what Trump and Co. were aiming for.
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