Air Force Reserve grooming space warriors

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Air Force leaders generally agree that the service will need more skills in three key areas: space, cyber and intelligence. Where that talent will come from is still a matter of debate.

Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of Air Force Reserve, says many of the specialized space and cyber operators the Air Force hopes to add to its ranks are likely to be part-time reservists.

Miller recently sat down with Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, to discuss this very topic. The command is leading a long-term project to sharpen space warfare skills in the Air Force and prepare for future wars against peer competitors.

A central challenge that Raymond faces, said Miller, is “How do you take the space domain and convert it into a war fighting environment?”

There is no simple answer to that question, Miller told SpaceNews at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference. She believes the same effort that the Air Force has put into training and nurturing aircraft pilots now needs to be applied to the military space business.

The space mission is becoming more complex and more intertwined with other areas of warfare, said Miller. “There is more focus on intelligence gathering. How do we build the capacity for space intelligence?” she asked. “We grew up in the intelligence arena with aviation. We are experts in that. So how do we build that same capacity in the space environment?”

Given the success the Air Force has achieved in air warfare, the same force-development model should work for space, said Miller. But she cautioned that this is easier said than done. “It’s a challenging time as we look to go from space awareness and monitoring to space war fighting.”

On any given day, about 6,500 Air Force reservists are performing duties in space, cybersecurity and other disciplines. As demand grows in these career fields, one of the ongoing debates is the possibility of allowing civilians to join the Air Force Reserve. “Can we tap into that civilian capacity in a part-time way?” Miller asked. “We are looking into that.”

It is a tricky issue to have people serving in the military who are not required to be in uniform, but it may turn out to be the most practical way to get talent, Miller said. “Not everyone has to be in a blue suit.”