This article was first published in the SN Military.Space newsletter. If you would like to get our news and insights for national security space professionals every Tuesday, sign up here for your free subscription.
During a recent conversation with a senior defense official about the changes coming to military space, he pointed out that under the proposed reorganization the lines of authority could become a little blurred.
I asked him to explain. “Before, I had one person that ran everything. Now I have at least four.”
The one person would be Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command and Joint Force Space Component Commander (under U.S. Strategic Command).
Raymond now is the nation’s top space commander, and he also oversees the equipping, training and organizing of space forces under the Air Force.
So basically he runs the show.
Under the forthcoming reorganization, the JFSCC function moves to U.S. Space Command. The functions of Air Force Space Command would transition to a military service, the Space Force, which would have a civilian leader (an undersecretary of space that reports to the secretary of the Air Force), a four-star chief of staff and a vice chief of staff.
This new structure could give space higher stature as the chief of staff would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, giving the Space Force a seat at the table with the big boys.
But by having more people in powerful positions overseeing space, it might not be clear who has the final say on various matters. Ironically, the establishment of a Space Force is supposed to fix a problem raised by the White House and Congress: That no one agency or individual is responsible for DoD space. …
A December 2017 Office of Management and Budget report, “OMB Report on the Leadership, Management and Organization of the Department of Defense’s Space Activities,” served as the foundation for the Trump administration’s effort to stand up a separate branch for space. The report complained that “space is being managed as a decentralized supporting capability, the result is a diffuse structure.” The same criticism was levied by the Government Accountability Office, which identified over a dozen defense organizations with significant responsibility for space.
A desire to centralize authority over military space was in part why the House Armed Services Committee advocated for a Space Corps.
One could argue that Raymond is today the one in charge, and the reorganization appears to be creating more fiefdoms, with more people in positions of authority to champion or block initiatives. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it doesn’t solve the issue identified by OMB and GAO of having too many people in charge.
As analysts from the Center for Naval Analyses cautioned in a report, there are many possible ways to design a Space Force, but ”we cannot definitively know before it is implemented that any design will produce the expected benefits.”