Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, speaks at the 2018 Reagan National Defense Forum. Credit: RNDF

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — In her first extensive comments about the Trump administration’s plans to establish a new military branch for space, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said a separate space service would help bring “focus and clarity” to space investments.

Space programs today are spread out across multiple military services and agencies, which makes it hard for the Defense Department to develop a unified strategy for investments needed to counter adversaries in space, Lord said on Saturday at the 2018 Reagan National Defense Forum, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The standup of a new service requires an act of Congress and many lawmakers are opposed to the idea. Lord suggested the reorganization should not be delayed. “One of the lessons from standing up Cyber Command is that it probably took too long to get organized,” she said. On the Space Force, “we are working very closely with administration and Congress” to make it happen, she said.

“One of the things we’re doing is looking at the complexity of space,” Lord said. “It is so co-mingled with all the other dimensions of warfare — sea, land, air,” she added. The Pentagon has to develop new capabilities to prevent rising space powers like China and Russia from denying the United States access and freedom in space. That will require a unified effort, she said. “We’ve done a careful inventory of what all the different services are doing, because it has been rather distributed. We want to make sure we’re effective in sharing all that,” said Lord. “A lot of energy and talent has gone into” doing that inventory.

“We want to make sure we assess the threat and come up with a strategy to dominate in space and make sure we have offensive and defensive capabilities,” said Lord “Instead of having such a federated series of efforts going on, a Space Force would allow us to get focus and clarity.”

Also speaking at the Reagan Forum, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said she expects President Trump to submit a proposal to Congress in February for the establishment of a Space Force. She insisted that the Air Force remains focused on developing capabilities to defeat adversaries in space, regardless of how the reorganization turns out.

During a Q&A session, CNN’s Barbara Starr pressed Wilson to explain how the Air Force is dealing with the “unprecedented challenge” of having to meet the president’s directive to establish a Space Force. Wilson said “a number of options are being worked through” to organize a new service. Starr also asked Wilson whether she believes the space security challenges posed by China and Russia require standing up a new service. Wilson said this is a presidential decision. “He will decide what kind of a proposal he wants to put forward,” she said. “The cost depends on the options. From my perspective, what is important is to have the capability regardless of the organizational chart.”

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...