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Space Force Leader Discusses Newest Military Service

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The leader of the Space Force today discussed his service's partnerships and relations with Congress and the Air Force.


Space Force Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, the chief of space operations and commander of the U.S. Space Command, attended a virtual event with the National Defense University Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office has never been better, Raymond said. Today, the Space Force shares a strategy, an operations center and even programs.

"What's driving us together is largely the threat," he said, meaning mostly from Russia and China. Although the NRO and the Space Force have distinct missions, Raymond said where they come together is to protect and defend. "Going forward, we need to broaden that relationship even greater," he said.

Partnerships with allies and partners is also important, Raymond said. For instance, the Defense Department trains with partners, shares data with partners, and operations centers are even inter-connected. The Space Force has even put military payloads on Norwegian and Japanese satellites.

Service members wearing face masks stand in formation.
Commission Prep
Officers assigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., prepare to commission into the Space Force, Oct. 16, 2020.
Photo By: Space Force Staff Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy
VIRIN: 201016-F-TM985-1008M

Partnering with other services is also critical since whatever happens in the space domain affects the other domains, he said. An example of this partnership is the Space Force's high priority on working with the services to begin the Joint All-Domain Command and Control system, which connects sensors to shooters across multiple domains, he said.

Partnering with the commercial industry is also important in areas such as commercial launch capabilities and large communications satellites, he said. And with the proliferation of small, low-earth orbit and higher-earth orbit satellites, working with the private sector will be even more important, as they can get very capable satellites built very quickly.

Relations With Congress

Raymond noted that the Space Force has strong bipartisan support from Congress and, in turn, the Space Force provides lawmakers with frequent updates. Legislators wanted the Space Force to develop an independent acquisition strategy, develop a human capital management plan, and do a study on how to best integrate the reserve component into the Space Force. All of these were done, he said, along with updating lawmakers on threats to the space domain.

A woman sets up a satellite antenna.
Antenna Setup
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicole Pam Penwarden, a communications specialist with Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, sets up a satellite communication antenna for a humanitarian assistance exercise during Realistic Urban Training at Atlantic Airfield, N.C., Oct. 10, 2020.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Mark E Morrow Jr.
VIRIN: 201010-M-GJ479-0029M

Air Force Dependence, Independence

Raymond mentioned that while the Space Force falls under the Department of the Air Force, it must develop a strong and independent presence to the benefit of the total force.

The relationship, he said, could be compared to the Marine Corps, which falls under the Department of the Navy. Marines pride themselves on everyone being a rifleman, and they have their distinct culture. At the same time, they rely on the Navy for ships, medical support and so on.

Graphic shows how satellites orbit Earth.
Research Work
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is working with the Space Development Agency to build a hardware and software testbed for optical communications to link interoperability between satellites. This network will make it possible to send and receive wideband data from one space vehicle to another and between space vehicles and ground stations.
Photo By: Graphic illustration courtesy of the Space Development Agency
VIRIN: 200928-N-NO204-001M

The only thing that comes into the Space Force is space operators, engineers, acquisition experts, cyber experts and software programmers. Everything else, he said, will rely on the Air Force, such as support functions, security forces, civil engineers and so on.

"We are focusing on the space superiority mission and being able to provide space capabilities to our allies and partners," he said.

Being Lean, But Effective

"We do not want to be big," Raymond said of the number of personnel in the Space Force. Big means slow. Successful leaders of industry recognize that smaller means being more nimble and effective, he said.

Airmen pose for a photo in front of a satellite terminal.
Group Photo
Service members from Holloman Air Force Base pose with a satellite earth terminal subsystem during Exercise Agile Reaper at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif., Sept. 8, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Collette Brooks
VIRIN: 200905-F-HV115-687M

However, there comes a point when being too lean can result in being ineffective. "The challenge is hitting the sweet spot," he said.

About 97% of the studies have been completed, indicating what other people and assets from the other services should be brought into the Space Force without harming the other services, he said. Raymond also said he expects a decision soon on what other pieces should be brought in.

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