A key White House demand in DoD’s Space Force plan: An “accountable civilian” to oversee the process
WASHINGTON — A much anticipated Pentagon report on the reorganization of the space components of the Defense Department was scheduled to be submitted to Congress on August 1 but was more than a week late, according to a spokesman, to allow more time for additional coordination.
There was much speculation about what prompted the delay. An earlier draft of that report, dated July 30, was obtained by Defense One, which reported on the contents July 31. The final report, dated August 9, was released by DoD on Thursday after Vice President Mike Pence previewed its contents in a speech at the Pentagon.
According to sources familiar with the earlier draft of the report, the White House wanted the Pentagon to state more explicitly its intent to create a separate military service for space. The July 30 draft included a list of immediate actions DoD would take, such as standing up a unified Space Command, establishing a Space Operations Force and creating a Space Development Agency to oversee technology efforts. But there was no mention of an “accountable civilian” leader to oversee the transition to a separate service and to manage the process.
Sources said the final DoD report, unlike the earlier draft, leaves no doubt that this is a step toward a Space Force and that a civilian leader will be in charge. The report says the Defense Department will “establish an affordable and efficient operating structure with accountable civilian oversight to provide service and support functions for the Space Force.”
Pence explained the thinking. He said the administration is keen on “accountability” and will create a single civilian position reporting to the secretary of defense to oversee the growth and expansion of the new branch. Initially an assistant secretary of defense for space, this position will be “key to the critical transition to a fully independent Secretary of the Space Force in the years ahead,” said Pence.
This might require legislative support because Congress sets a limit on the number of assistant secretaries of defense. If a new assistant secretary were added for space, DoD would have to ask Congress to authorize it or it could eliminate an existing position.
A civilian leader to take ownership of this process was a major concern of the White House, one source said, even more so than the creation of a U.S. Space Command — which Congress already had put into law in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act — and the establishment of a Space Development Agency and a Space Operations Force.
The final report addressed White House concerns about the Pentagon being sufficiently clear that reorganization efforts are aimed at creating a separate service. “It is imperative that the United States adapts its policies, doctrine, and capabilities to protect our interests. Towards that end, the Department of Defense will marshal space resources into a Space Force,” said the report. “The Space Force will protect our economy through deterrence of malicious activities, ensure our space systems meet national security requirements, and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces across the spectrum of conflict.”