Maj. Gen. John Shaw, commander of the Space Operations Command of the U.S. Space Force.

WASHINGTON — During the month of May, more than 8,500 active-duty airmen applied to transfer to the U.S. Space Force. The service is trying to fill about 7,000 positions so this initial recruitment drive appears to have been a huge success.

But the Space Force has not yet completed an analysis of the applicants so it’s too soon to say if there are enough qualified candidates for the positions that need to be filled. “It sounds like we did better than we expected,” Maj. Gen. John Shaw, commander of the Space Operations Command of the U.S. Space Force, said June 15.

Shaw said he has not yet seen a detailed breakdown of the career fields and the seniority levels of the applicants “and how that would stack up against our requirements,” he said at Air Force Association virtual event.

“That process is going on in the Pentagon right now,” said Shaw.

The Space Force announced last week that the 8,500 applicants include airmen from 13 different career fields.

The top priority is to transfer Air Force officers and enlisted members from space career fields such as space operations (known as 13S) and space systems operations (known as 1C6). Space Force spokeswoman Lynn Kirby told SpaceNews that 2,386 applications are from members of these two space-focused career fields.

Other career fields for which the Space Force has a large demand are acquisition and intelligence.

Shaw said it’s a safe bet that some categories probably came up short. “The statistician and engineer in me, without any inside knowledge, would guess there are some of those boxes in these career fields that we’re doing well and some hat we didn’t get enough.”

“But this is just the beginning,” said Shaw. “And we’ve already identified 8,500 people who want to come in.”

Shaw pointed out that the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act allows “voluntary transfer of personnel to the Space Force.” This is an expanded authority compared to last year’s NDAA that only allowed members of the Air Force Space Command to move over.

If the SASC provision becomes law, “that will be interesting,” said Shaw. “It would allow us a round two to address any shortcomings.”

Shaw said acquisition is “a huge piece of what we’re going to need” because the Space Force has to accelerate the development of next-generation technologies to stay ahead of adversaries.

Space Force leaders drafted a proposal to change the acquisition process so programs would move faster. The recommendations however did not make it into the SASC markup because they were not submitted on time, according to the committee.

“When I looked at the readout from the SASC, that was the big dog that wasn’t barking: the acquisition piece,” said Shaw. “I was actually surprised there wasn’t more acquisition language in the NDAA.”

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...