WASHINGTON — Gen. Jay Raymond served at the helm of the U.S. Department of Defense’s space enterprise for six years — first as the commander of Air Force Space Command and then, when it was established in 2019, as the leader of the Space Force.
Raymond closed out his tenure as chief of space operations and his 38-year career with the Department of the Air Force Nov. 2, telling reporters recently that having the opportunity to “build a service from scratch” was the best job in the military.
Speaking during a briefing at the Air Space and Cyber Conference in September, he said the Space Force has put “all of the foundational pieces in place” over the last three years. That work includes establishing three field commands focused on operations, training and acquisition and creating an organization, the Space Warfighting Analysis Center, to lead the service’s transition to a more resilient architecture.
Gen. Chance Saltzman, who previously served as deputy chief of space operations, was confirmed by the Senate Sept. 29 to succeed Raymond as the next CSO.
Raymond recently spoke with C4ISRNET about his time leading the Space Force, the imperative to protect space systems from adversary and environmental threats and what’s next for the service as it wraps up its third year in December. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
There’s a significant effort within the Space Force, and particularly the requirements and acquisition community, to shift to a more resilient space architecture. What is driving that urgency? And is the service well-positioned to make that transition?
I’ve talked for a long time about the need to make a shift in the architectures that we have. They’re the world’s best — very exquisite, incredible capabilities. But they were built for a different time. They were built for a different mission. They were built for a domain that didn’t have a threat and so, for the longest time we’ve said, we’ve got to make the shift.
One of the things the establishment of the Space Force allowed us to do was to have a little bit of a center of mass in the Pentagon that could drive the analytical rigor to get the design right. If you recall back in the 2016-2018 timeframe and the debate on what’s the right organizational structure for national security space, one of the big things that Congress was really pushing on was that there were about 60 different organizations that had a role in space acquisition. And, they said, 60 people could say no, but nobody could say yes.
We now have an organization that’s been tapped to unite the department and figure out what it is that we should build and to lead the integration of joint requirements. I think those two big things are the most consequential gains of having an independent service focused on space.
With the establishment of the Space Force, we have significantly enhanced our analytical capabilities. On the other hand, you have a commercial industry that’s maturing to where you have smaller satellites that are being built and being built on certain timelines that are much faster than the business model that we have traditionally used. As that commercial industry matures and develops and emerges, we then want to leverage that to be able to move at speed.
As you put these plans in place and begin to develop systems that are more resilient, how do you make sure the satellites and ground architecture you have today is also protected? What does resiliency look like in this in-between time?
Between now and then, we have to be able to provide those capabilities to our nation, to our allies and partners and to our joint forces. You can’t have a gap because they’re too critical. And so, the first part is, that needs to be solid and be maintained. While that is maintained, you’re working the transformation to this new architecture.
When the new architecture is done, what it looks like will be different depending on the mission. If you’re doing a missile warning mission, you might come up with a different force design than if you’re doing a communications mission or a space domain awareness mission. But at the end of that, what I would expect to see is the new constellations in place and you probably will have some residual of the old capabilities that are still working, because you can’t have that gap.
And that’s the balance. That’s the discussion we’re in on that bridging strategy. Do you stop doing all the old stuff and go completely new? Do you do a little bit of the old stuff? Do you do a lot of the old stuff and do a little bit of new? Trying to balance where that sweet spot is, is kind of where we find ourselves.
The Space Warfighting Analysis Center is leading this work for the Space Force. How do you prioritize which missions they focus on? And what analysis is under way?
The first analysis we did was the highest priority, the missile warning, missile tracking portfolio. We’ve completed a force design on [the] ground moving target indicator [mission]. We’re doing work now on what we call the data transport layer, which is, in my opinion, the Space Force’s contribution to joint all-domain command and control. It’s how you take data and information from space, move it around space and bring it down to the ground or to a ship or to an airplane in the right format, at the right time to enable that joint all-domain command and control.
The Space Warfighting Analysis Center that does this work is a really small organization. There’s only so much capacity in that group to be able to do that work. And so, another area that I think we’re going to have to think through is, what’s the right size for that organization?
Congress has been pushing for the Space Force to develop a responsive space capability that can rapidly replenish satellites on orbit. The service has been executing the money Congress has appropriated for experimentation, but hasn’t developed a formal program of record. With the space industry making progress developing rapid launch options and small satellite manufacturing capacity, is the Space Force ready to embrace this concept? When will we see evidence of this?
In 2003, I wrote an article with my boss at the time, [Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski], and we talked about a new business model called tactically responsive space. I think we were probably a little bit ahead of where the technology was. I agree with you that since that time, commercial launch has really reduced launch costs significantly. Smaller satellites are more operationally relevant. And so, you now have a point where you can leverage those to become more responsive.
We’re building this new force design, and I think the force design gives us an opportunity to leverage those smaller satellites, which then can be executed more responsively in the future. The next big piece that the Space Force is going to have to work on is the operational concept for how we would use responsive space. And then there’s the requirements piece of it that says, what are the joint requirements? So, we’re working with U.S. Space Command to work the requirements part of that as well.
I have long believed that there is a role, and we need to be more responsive. We have done some experiments. I want to get this out of the experiment level and get into real capability where it makes sense in the force design work that we’re doing. And I think we’ll then figure out the operational concept for responsive space.
The Space Force was designed to be a lean service. How hard has that been to maintain? And as the service matures and the requirements for more space capabilities increases, is that a realistic approach?
The space business is not a manpower intensive business. We operate the entire GPS constellation with less than 100 people. And so, it’s not like some of the other services where the strength is in the mass of people. We are a very technology-focused service, not as much a manpower-focused service.
One of the big things a next CSO will have to think through is, do we have that right? When we first stood up, the initial plan said we should have a headquarters of 1,035 people. When I was the Air Force’s [deputy chief of staff for operations], there might have been across the headquarters less than 100 people.
So, my first question was, what are 1,035 people going to do? Everybody I had talked to said big organizations are slow, and you’ve got to be lean and agile, and you’ve got to go fast. There was a strong desire to have the Space Force focus on capability, not on bureaucracy. So, I slashed it 40% to 600. And that 600 has been laid in over the course of the last several years. We haven’t even gotten to 600 yet. Some of the billets are just coming in.
What I have learned is, you have to have enough mass to operate inside the Department of Defense. I think once the headquarters gets to 600, there’s going to have to be some analysis done to say, is that the right answer? There is no desire to get big, you just need it to be effective.
When you think back to the original plan and the timeline for creating the Space Force, is there anything you didn’t think you would accomplish?
I would have flunked the test if you’d told me what we were able to accomplish in three years. It really is remarkable, especially with a global pandemic and people not in the office and not being able to hire folks.
To have the department say, you’re the joint requirements lead and you have the responsibility for force design, those are two significant steps. That shows not only that we built the force, but we did some analytical work that people said, “Hey, that was really good. They really know what they’re doing and have the credibility to do that.”
The second thing that I think we have significantly upped our game on is the people business. How do you take care of or do the professional development and force development? That’s foundational to being an independent service. And I think the gains that we’ve made in that have far exceeded what I thought we would have done.
And then the third area that I think we really significantly advanced the ball in is our partnerships. We have put a lot of emphasis on building partnerships with the intelligence community and building partnerships with our allies and our partners. And I think if you were to ask some of our allies and partners, I think they would all tell you that the Space Force has been instrumental in helping elevate the discussion of space — not just in the United States, but also amongst our allies and partners, which is foundational to integrated deterrence.
Where would you like to see more progress made?
We’ve got all the major building blocks in place. We’ve got the [organizational] charts done and people in them and they’re working. There’s more work to do to get more fully integrated into the processes that the department runs — the global force management processes, the readiness processes. We continue to work on that, and there’s still more work to be done on that front.
I also believe there is more to do on the integration with the total force and our desire to take the reserve component and active component and put them into one component. I really believe this is a signature transformational initiative that might be as significant as [the] Goldwater-Nichols [DoD reorganization legislation] was to the joint force. It’s a pretty significant legislative lift. It’s not something that’s easy. But I really want to see that materialize because I think it’s a game changer. And that’s another area that we’ve got some more work to do.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.