WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic has forced the new U.S. Space Force to shelve some key decisions that will help shape the culture of the new service, its No. 2 officer said Thursday.
The service had planned to make a number of big announcements in early April to coincide with Space Symposium — including unveiling a new logo, renaming key bases and revealing what the Space Force will call its new members after more than 700 suggestions were collected as part of a crowdsourcing campaign. For now, those decisions have been delayed, said Lt. Gen. David Thompson, the vice commander of Space Force headquarters.
"Right now, there’s a series of recommendations that we’re preparing for senior leader decision,” Thompson said during a Space News event. “That’s probably one of the few areas that has slowed down a little bit, mostly because the focus naturally of our senior leaders [has been] on COVID, the response and the activities there, but it’s still moving forward, we still anticipate that near term.”
In March, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond said those decisions had not been delayed, and he hinted that some could be announced within the coming weeks despite Space Symposium having been postponed until October.
“We are moving out at full speed, and I’m really, really pleased with the progress we’re making on establishing the Space Force,” he said then.
Although Thompson said the Space Force hasn’t ruled out making some announcements during the pandemic, he acknowledged that others — like the announcement of Space Force base names — would come after the need for social distancing diminishes.
“The focus of the nation has moved elsewhere for now,” he said. “Part of what we wanted to do is make sure it was an appropriate recognition with the local communities. … We want to celebrate, especially with those local communities, so now is not quite the right time to do it.”
Last week, the Air Force Academy graduated the first newly commissioned officers of the Space Force, building its official roster of members to include Raymond, its senior enlisted Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman and 86 new lieutenants. In May, space operators currently serving in the Air Force will be able to volunteer to cross over to the Space Force.
Thompson said he recalled seeing a statement by one of the academy cadets slated to join the Space Force that made him hopeful about its future.
“He said: ‘I care less about what I’m going to be called and more about the systems I’m going to be operating and how I’m going to execute missions in space,’ ” Thompson said, “I love that attitude. We need to have those other things, those culture-related things, but give me 86 people like that and they will build the culture that we want to be the Space Force, whatever the logo is."
With high public interest in the Space Force, the service is also looking at innovative ways it can recruit talented individuals who already have skills and expertise in the realm of space.
“In addition to those sort of folks we have today, we want to open up the aperture in terms of different minds, different ideas, different specialties to help us think new and differently about space,” Thompson said. “We’re developing ideas and concepts and processes for perhaps the ability to accept and hire people directly off the street, to allow them to flow more freely between service inside the Space Force and in industry and other things.”
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.