WASHINGTON — The U.S Space Force plans to stand up a new command to oversee all of the service’s acquisitions in 2021, although that timeline is dependent on identifying the space-related parts of the other military branches that will be transferred into the nation’s newest service.
The Space Force announced in June that it will be made up of three field commands — Space Operations Command; Space Training and Readiness Command; and Space Systems Command — with the latter charged with developing, acquiring and sustaining systems for the Space Force. Space Systems Command will oversee both the Space and Missile Systems Center, which currently procures most of the service’s space-related platforms, and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office.
“We anticipate standing that up in 2021, probably sooner rather than later. We’re working on those final details,” Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson said during a Defense One event Oct. 1.
Notably, Space Systems Command is set to become the new home of the Space Development Agency in October 2022, bringing the ambitious organization under the Space Force’s purview. The agency was launched in 2019 and has quickly moved forward with plans to establish a mega-constellation of satellites operating in low Earth orbit. The agency’s planned transport layer — a space-based mesh network comprised of satellites connected by optical intersatellite crosslinks — is set to play a major part in the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept.
The new command will act as a unifying force, said Thompson, removing unnecessary duplication between organizations while encouraging healthy competition in some areas.
“We’re not going to duplicate, but we’re certainly interested in the energy that comes from competing ideas and competing designs and competing approaches to a problem,” he explained.
Unifying space acquisitions and activities under a single service was a major justification for the establishment of the Space Force. However, details on which organizations, functions and platforms will be absorbed has been scant, as talks continue between the services and Department of Defense leadership.
“The absolute final decision hasn’t been made,” Thompson said. “We have been engaged in this process for several months now. We’re getting close to the decisions that need to be made in terms of transfer of some of those functions and capabilities.”
“There is a tremendous amount that the Space Force and the Air Force and the Army and the Navy working together with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] have already agreed on,” Thompson added. “One is the capabilities and forces that will stay in place where they are to continue to do the activities that are space-related, the set of activities that are prepared to move over; and then there’s a couple, there’s a few, units and functions left that we haven’t reached full agreement on, and we’re in the process of finalizing the data and the information that will allow the decision-makers to decide the final disposition — whether they’ll stay or whether they’ll move to the Space Force.”
The Space Force largely completed this process with the Air Force in the spring, said Thompson, with 23 units or functions selected for transition into the new service. Much of the planning and execution of that transfer has already been completed, and the Space Force has gone on to identify other organizations and capabilities that should be brought into their fold, including two Air Force units and two more from the intelligence community.
Plans are expected to be finalized for the other services in the near future, with Thompson teasing that an announcement was likely before the end of the year.
“The target that the leadership in the DoD has given us is we want to be able to make decisions so that we can execute planning in FY2021 and begin facilitating moves in 2022,” he explained.
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.