WASHINGTON — What does a change in administration mean for the U.S. Space Force? “I get that question a lot,” Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Jan. 22.

President Biden is not expected to make abrupt changes to U.S. national security programs but there is particular uncertainty surrounding the Space Force because it was so actively championed by the Trump administration. 

Speaking on Friday at a National Security Space Association online event, Hyten said he had not yet spoken with President Biden or Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the Space Force. 

“I don’t know exactly what is going to happen to it,” said Hyten, a former commander of U.S. Strategic Command and Air Force Space Command, who strongly advocated for the establishment of the Space Force. As vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Hyten provides military advice to the secretary of defense and the president. 

Pentagon policies and priorities change with new civilian leadership. But Hyten noted that the Space Force was created for national security reasons that transcend administrations. 

“I think that the Space Force is on solid ground,” said Hyten.

He said the idea of a military space branch for years had staunch backers in Congress and the former administration “pushed it across the finish line.” The public does not fully understand why the Space Force serves an important role, he said. The service exists because the United States faces threats from rival powers like Russia and China that want to deny U.S. access and capabilities in space. “Space is critical to everything we do,” said Hyten.

The Space Force during its first year made considerable progress organizing and laying out a foundation for the future, said Hyten, and cautioned the service should stay focused on its national security responsibilities and not get distracted. 

“They’ve done amazing work the first year creating a structure, but it’s important to remember it’s all about the threat,” said Hyten. “What’s going to happen to the Space Force in the next year? I can’t tell you,” he added. “I give military advice as vice chairman and will continue to do that.”

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...