COLORADO SPRINGS — The military bureaucracy is not known for speed, but moving fast is critical today’s environment, said the chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond.
The Space Force, an independent military service under the Department of the Air Force, has been on an accelerated trajectory since Congress signed it into law in December 2019. It now has nearly 6,000 uniformed ‘guardians’ and about an equal number of civilian employees charged with operating and protecting the U.S. military’s satellites and supporting systems.
Raymond, who as head of the Space Force is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with SpaceNews he is proud of what has been accomplished but recognizes the service still has to convince Congress it has a vision for the future, particularly on how it will acquire advanced technologies to compete with China and Russia.
Lawmakers expect the Space Force to do business differently than the former Air Force Space Command. Raymond said the Space Force has come a long way in 18 months but there is much more to be done. The service headquarters is up and running at the Pentagon, and three field organizations have been established: The Space Operations Command and the Space Training and Readiness Command, both at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado; and the Space Systems Command at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.
You revealed recently that the Space Force is working on a program to deploy radar satellites to track moving targets. That program had been kept secret in the past. Are we going to see more space projects be declassified?
The GMTI program [ground moving target indicator] is an important program for us. It’s a capability that we think is well suited for the space domain. To do this right, we want to be able to integrate with partners, including the intelligence community and others, and to do that, we thought it was important to be able to talk about it.
So we can have those conversations we have to reduce the classification. And as you’ve heard me say before, I think we’re overly classified. I think there are opportunities to reduce classification. It helps us integrate again with our partners, both commercial and with our international partners.
Reducing classification helps us with our deterrence messaging. If you’re going to change the deterrence calculus, you have to be able to talk about capabilities that you have to deny an adversary the benefits of attack. So there’s lots of good reasons to do this and you’ll see us continue to focus on that as we move forward.
As the Space Force approaches its second anniversary, what goals do you hope to accomplish?
The first year was all about building the Space Force and obviously there’s still pieces that we’re working on. But our main focus has been on addressing the challenges that Congress has raised. So we’re focused on what we call the capabilities development process and force design. That means defining what our satellite constellations need to look like to operate effectively in the domain which today is becoming increasingly congested and contested.
Space underpins every instrument of national power, our diplomacy, our economy, it is the ultimate high ground for national security. We’ve long known that the space domain is of vital economic interest to the United States and I only see that growing.
What has been accomplished so far in the design of the future force?
We stood up an organization called the Space Warfighting Analysis Center that is doing that force design work. Their first task was to design our most critical mission area which is missile warning and missile tracking, and they’ve done the force design work on what that architecture needs to look like.
We work with partners that own pieces of that architecture. That includes our Space Systems Command, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the Missile Defense Agency, the Space Development Agency, [and] the National Reconnaissance Office; each has a piece of it. And so we’ve pulled that community together to build a design based on sound analysis.
What is the role of the Space Force in shaping DoD space investments?
That’s where the requirements piece comes in. And we are getting after this integration piece, working with the [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] on the Joint Staff. The JROC recently assigned the Space Force as the lead for joint space requirements integration. That goes hand in hand with force design. You will see the Space Force leading and pulling the community together and integrating requirements across the department.
Congress has been critical of the slow pace of Space Force acquisitions. What is the plan to accelerate the procurement process?
Our Space Systems Command just stood up. It will take the next steps in being able to develop the right capabilities at the right time — on the tactical timelines that we need with the partners that we need — to be able to deliver capabilities for our nation and our joint coalition partners. We continue to delegate authorities down to the lowest level. We continue to unite different capabilities under that command. And we continue to focus on being able to move at speed
We also established what we call the Program Integration Council, which is a group of leaders representing three-star-level program executive offices. They get together and look at capabilities from an enterprise perspective, and make sure that things are well integrated.
Then, the last part of that cycle is an integrated test capability. We have to be able to train operators to be able to operate those capabilities. You have to be able to test those capabilities to make sure that they’re effective. We created a Space Force Test and Evaluation Office [led by astronaut Col. Nick Hague]. He has a test pilot background, and brought him back from NASA for a couple years to design the test infrastructure, if you will, to be able to do the final step of the capability development process, and that’s getting capabilities on orbit.
Each one of those pieces is really important. You’ve got the Space Warfighting Analysis Center doing the force design. You’ve got the Space Force staff at the Pentagon doing the requirements and coordinating across the department. You’ve got Space Systems Command obviously focusing on the acquisition piece. And now you’ve got an integrated test capability and training capability that will be the focus of the Space Training and Readiness Command.
That’s what all those organizations do. I thought it was important to lay out the broader context on how the puzzle pieces are all coming together.
Is Space Systems Command going to change how the Space Force works with the commercial space industry?
As you’ve heard me say before, I would bet on the U.S. commercial industry any day. And I want to be able to leverage them to build more resilient space capabilities. And I think the Space Warfighting Analysis Center work on force design will enable greater cooperation with commercial industry.
The Space Systems Command already has an office that procures commercial SATCOM [satellite communications]. We are expanding the role of that office to look not only at commercial SATCOM but look at commercial services more broadly.
Going back to the Space warfighting Analysis Center, if you design a constellation in a way that allows commercial companies to have more of an active role in building those capabilities, I think that’s going to be very helpful to the commercial industry.
And so the design that we’re doing is more of a hybrid design. Not just very large and very expensive satellites, but a hybrid design which allows commercial industry to participate, because commercial industry has matured to the point where they can really provide great capability, and we want to be able to capitalize on that.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last month in a memo laid out DoD’s tenets of responsible behavior in space. Is this going to help make space safer?
These are good foundational tenets. We have rules for responsible behavior in the air domain and maritime domain. But as I’ve said many times, space today is kind of the wild wild west.
U.S. Space Command is working with all the stakeholders to help coordinate the policy guidance. Obviously, we have a big role in that. I’m encouraged by the tenets; I think it’s an important step. And we continue to have conversations with our allies and partners and I think there’s an equal understanding from them that we’ve got to come up with some rules for responsible behavior.