ARLINGTON, Va. — A cybersecurity expert from the private sector was recently commissioned into the U.S. Space Force as a lieutenant colonel even though he never attended a military service academy or completed ROTC in college. 

This is an example of “innovative recruitment practices” the Space Force is implementing to attract needed talent, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations, said in a speech April 5 at the Mitchell Institute Spacepower Security Forum.

As the smallest branch of the U.S. military with a high demand for technical expertise, the Space Force has embraced unconventional ways to attract and retain people in key career fields, Saltzman said.

The Space Force last year introduced the “constructive service credit program” that allows experienced professionals in the fields of cybersecurity and intelligence to directly commission into the Space Force at ranks appropriate to their years of experience, he explained.

Part-time service

Another proposed new initiative is to allow full-time guardians to serve part-time instead of having to create a dedicated reserve force.

The idea is to have an active-duty force with full-time and part-time members, an idea opposed by some lawmakers who have advocated for the establishment of a Space National Guard

The Space Force’s preferred approach has not been officially greenlighted by Congress but Saltzman is optimistic. “One of the things that I’m very excited about is our efforts to integrate space reserve personnel,” he said. “With congressional support we will start integrating the Air Force Reserve space elements into the Space Force as a single component.”

He said the proposed talent management system would allow guardians to transfer between full-time and part-time duty status to pursue opportunities outside military service and subsequently return to full-time duty without barriers to reentry, or detriment to their career.

“This will strengthen our recruiting and retention efforts by providing unique flexible career paths,” Saltzman said. “And we look forward to working with Congress and our advocacy groups on this important initiative.”

An emphasis on talent management and tapping into the creativity of young leaders is one of the themes highlighted in the new Space Force Handbook that Saltzman released April 3. 

The Space Force has to embrace modern talent management processes, he said. “The size and requirements of the Space Force present unique recruiting challenges.”

Bring innovation into space operations

During recent tours of Space Force bases in the U.S. and overseas, Saltzman said one of the top concerns among service members is that they need better tools, training and flexibility to accomplish increasingly demanding tasks. 

Units that track space objects and are responsible for space traffic monitoring, for example, worry that they can’t keep up with the demand. 

The Space Force is now tracking approximately 48,000 objects in space, and projections show the numbers are just going to get bigger. 

“What they ask me is how do we keep up?” Saltzman said. “What can we do to help accelerate our training? How can we inform the requirements to develop the type of systems that we need to keep pace? That’s the concern I think that I hear from the field.”

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...