ORLANDO, Fla. — Preparations are underway to officially transition Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the U.S. Space Force. There is still no firm date for the actual name change but it could happen sometime in March, said Brig. Gen. Douglas Schiess, commander of the 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range.
But even when they become Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, these installations will still be maintained and supported by the U.S. Air Force, Schiess told SpaceNews on Feb. 26 at the Air Force Association’s annual winter symposium.
The renaming of bases is one of a long list of administrative changes planned for the coming year as part of the standup of the U.S. Space Force. Schiess said the date for the official name change is being coordinated with the White House as there will be someone “pretty high up” attending the event. “We’re hearing mid-March,” he said. “We’re preparing.”
Schiess said the communities in the Florida Space Coast are excited about the U.S. Space Force and are eager for the name of the new branch to be visible on billboards and road signs.
He said the Air Force and the Space Force are making these changes while being respectful of the history behind bases like Patrick, named after Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick, the first chief of the Army Air Corps’ air service in World War I.
There is also a discussion about what to call the current space wings. The term wing is associate with air warfare and the Space Force would like to have a different name for these organizations, said Schiess. A decision will be made eventually, but the Space Force first has to settle on what to call its members. “Are we going to be Guardians, Sentinels. Troopers?” Schiess said that has to be figured out “before we decide what the wing will be called,” he said. “I don’t even want to speculate, it’s all over the place on what it would be.”
Schiess pointed out the Space Force is only a few weeks old, although it feels that it’s been around longer because it’s been talked about for over a year. “You could argue we should have been ready” with a new name by the time the National Defense Authorization Act enacted the Space Force on Dec. 20, he said. But many people thought the NDAA would say to be ready a year from now, and Schiess himself was surprised the bill enacted the Space Force immediately upon signing.
“There’s a lot of things we should have had ready to go but we didn’t, and names is one of them,” he said. He constantly gets asked that question: what are we going to be called?
Having a name is the first step toward building an identity as a space service, said Schiess, who began his Air Force career as operator of intercontinental ballistic missiles. “As we become our own, as people start coming over and become part of the Space Force and as we bring new folks in, we’re going to build that culture of space warfighting,” he said.
The launch wings — the 45th Space Wing on the East Coast and the 30th Space Wing on the West Coast — are somewhat unique because they work closely with the commercial launch industry but still have to think about “assured access to space” as a key national security priority, said Schiess. It’s helpful for the Space Force ranks to hear the Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond talk about Russia’s aggressive behavior in space, for example, he said. “So people realize there’s an adversary out there.”
One of the more controversial issues in the standup of the Space Force has been the lack of a plan to create a Space National Guard or a dedicated reserve component to support the new service. That is an ongoing debate and DoD is expected to deliver a report to Congress March 19 with recommendations. Schiess declined to offer an opinion on which way DoD should go.
The 45th Space Wing relies on individual reservists but does not have National Guard units. There is a Florida National Guard at Patrick Air Force Base, the 114th Space Control Squadron, that conducts electronic warfare operations in support of the U.S. Space Force.
During a Space Force leaders meeting in Colorado Springs last week, “General Raymond said we have to get after that, what is the right mix of guard and reserves,” said Schiess. “They’ll have to work that out.”