Reform

Space Force Aims to Stay Light-Years Ahead

March 20, 2019 | BY C. Todd Lopez

Great power competition no longer is limited to the land, the sea and the air.

Maintaining and increasing the gap between U.S. space capabilities and the burgeoning capabilities of competitors is a high priority for the Defense Department.

A rocket launches at night
Minuteman Launch
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., April 26, 2017.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Ian Dudley
VIRIN: 170426-F-HH416-001C

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan discussed the now-blossoming U.S. Space Force as well as other Defense Department developments to grow America’s dominance in the final frontier.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan speaks at a podium.
Shananhan Speech
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, March 20, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190320-D-BN624-1050

Space Force will be an "advocate" for space, Shanahan said, and will fall under the Air Force in the same way the Marine Corps falls under the Navy Department. But Space Force won’t be as big as the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marine Corps. It’ll be less than 20,000 strong, and have a budget matching that of U.S. Special Operations Command.

DOD efforts to maintain an edge in space also involve standing up a space-focused combatant command — for the second time. The first stood up in 1985 and shuttered in 2002. U.S. Space Command will "change the mission of space from a support function to a leading role," Shanahan said.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan sits on a stage holding a microphone next to another man sitting on stage holding a microphone.
Official Speaker
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, March 20, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190320-D-BN624-1160

Delivering research, space-age gear and equipment to U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command will be the Space Development Agency. That’s the third prong of the DOD’s rocket-like drive into space. The Space Development Agency will have work to do on the day it opens its doors, including finding ways to track and warn against hypersonic weapons, and discovering an alternative to GPS.