Gen. John Raymond, Commander, Air Force Space Command testifies with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces (U.S. Air Force photo)

WASHINGTON — Air Force Space Command chief Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond has nothing but praise for Congress for the recently passed defense policy bill.

And for obvious reasons.

Air Force Space Command emerged as a big winner in the reorganization of the national security space enterprise directed by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.

“I got extended for a six-year term,” Raymond gushed.

Raymond spoke enthusiastically about the NDAA on Friday at an event on Capitol Hill hosted by the Mitchell Institute.

“I love my job,” he said. “I very much appreciate the interest from Congress in space. I think the law is going to help us.”

The law increases the general’s clout significantly not just by giving him a longer term but also because the legislation shifts space-related organizational, training and equipping powers from the the Air Force and secretary and chief of staff to Air Force Space Command. AFSPC would oversee acquisition, resources and requirements of space forces and play a central role in developing national security space strategy.

Air Force Space Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, was created in 1982. It took over the cyberspace operations mission in 2009 and turned over the mission to defend North America through intercontinental ballistic missile operations to Air Force Global Strike Command. It has a workforce of about 35,000 people at 134 locations worldwide.

Raymond said the reorganization laid out in the NDAA will help to set the conditions for the United States to get ahead of its enemies in space.

“It will help us get where we need to go,” Raymond said. “I always talk about having a foot on the accelerator. But I don’t just want to have a foot on the accelerator. I want to run laps around our competitors.”

The NDAA language, he said, “gives us flexibility to work with the deputy secretary of defense to figure out how best to do this.”

Air Force Space Command will push to accelerate acquisition programs and also improve the training and education of space forces, he said. All these efforts fall under an umbrella initiative called “space war-fighting construct.”

Raymond also touted the recent reorganization of U.S. Strategic Command that gives space forces greater visibility and status.

At a ceremony Dec. 1 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Raymond became dual-hatted as the Joint Force Space Component Commander under Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

The move officially reorganized joint space forces beneath STRATCOM. Raymond said this will bring about “fundamental changes in the command and control of space.” He previously ran the joint functional component command for space, which was deactivated.

On the surface it looks as if “we just rearranged a few words and that it’s not that big of a deal,” Raymond said. In reality, “This is significant,” he added. “It elevates the operational level command and control from a three to a four-star commander. It consolidates the Air Force’s ‘organize, train and equip’ responsibilities under one commander. It normalizes command and control across U.S. Strategic Command.”

Hyten for some time had pushed for a space force under STRATCOM. The new Joint Force Space Component Command effectively elevates the space mission to co-equal status with the other missions the military does on Earth.

“If you go to any combatant commander in the world you find an air, land and maritime component,” Hyten said last week at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “At STRATCOM you used to find 18 functional components. By this time next year you’ll have an air component, a space, a land and a maritime component. And a war fighting structure with a four-star in charge, the most knowledgeable space person,” he said. “As much as I love space, it is not my number-one priority at STRATCOM. My top priority is the nuclear enterprise. Which means I need a four-star general, the smartest guy I can find and put him in charge of space.”

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...