WASHINGTON — Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will be taking on the duties of space adviser that previously resided with the secretary of the Air Force, according to a Jan. 17 memorandum sent to Defense Department military and civilian leaders.

In the memo, titled “Guidance for Increasing Lethality and Warfighting Readiness in Space,” Shanahan lists a number of changes that will be made to the management and organization of the national security space enterprise.

The most important shift is Shanahan assuming the oversight of the military space portfolio that previously resided with the secretary of the Air Force. Shanahan’s memo was written in accordance with Section 1601 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.

In a related action also aimed at complying with NDAA provisions, the Air Force moved to establish a three-star vice commander of Air Force Space Command resident in the National Capital Region.

These are the “first steps to implementing and embracing congressional direction on changes to the space enterprise,” said space industry consultant Mike Tierney, of Jacques & Associates, who reviewed the memo on Thursday.

The memo makes it clear that the Air Force is not losing any of its Title 10 authorities. Title 10 of the U.S. Code provides the legal basis for the roles, missions and organization of each of the military services. “The department of the Air Force will continue to be principally responsible for organizing, training, equipping and presenting ready Air Force space forces to combatant commanders.”

The memo directs immediate implementation of the following changes:

The position and office of the Principal DoD Space Advisor are terminated and the duties responsibilities, personnel and resources of that office will be transferred to Shanahan on an interim basis. Current PDSA Director Dr. John Stopher will lead the staff and report directly to Shanahan.

The commander of Air Force Space Command will serve a term of at least six years and serve as a Joint Functional Component Commander under the commander of U.S. Strategic Command. Air Force Space Command will consult with the DoD chief information officer to “evaluate, develop, and make recommendations on the procurement of commercial satellite communications services and provide any recommendations to the Deputy Secretary of Defense by August 1, 2018.”

The position of deputy chief of staff for space operations (A-11) will be terminated and the Air Force is directed to take steps to reorganize its headquarters’ space function. As mandated by the NDAA, Shanahan disestablishes the Defense Space Council, designates the “Operationally Responsive Space” office as the “Space Rapid Capabilities Office,” and directs the Air Force to ensure that the office focuses on rapid acquisitions.

The National Space Defense Center will be transitioned from an experiment to a functioning command center in support of joint and interagency space capabilities.

The Commander of U.S. Strategic Command will submit a “joint warfighting concept of operations” to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The chief of staff of the Air Force will be responsible for developing joint space requirements. And the secretary of the Air Force is directed to begin a comprehensive review of Air Force acquisition organization and authorities regarding space.

Also in accordance with section 1601 of the NDAA, Shanahan will engage a federally funded think tank not affiliated with the Air Force to study the pros and cons of having a separate military department responsible for the national security space activities of the Department of Defense.

An interim report has to be submitted to Congress by August 1, 2018 and a final report no later than December 31, 2018.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...