The Protected Tactical Satcom (PTS) program is to provide secure communications to military users. Credit: U.S. Army

WASHINGTON — A survey of Army space officers found that most would consider transferring to the Space force if that were an option.

Conducted in March by the Army Space Personnel Development Office, the survey anonymously polled the entire active-duty officer corps of Functional Area 40 Space Operations, known as FA40.

The Army Space Personnel Development Office is the organization that represents FA40s in the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, based in Huntsville, Alabama.

The survey, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews, was only released internally within Army leadership circles.

The survey was sent to 409 officers in the FA40 career field, including 31 colonels, 64 lieutenant colonels, 172 majors and 142 captains. The FA40 career field does not include enlisted soldiers.

About two-thirds, or 270 of FA40 officers, responded to survey: 14 colonels, 33 lieutenant colonels, 124 majors and 99 captains.

The survey posed three central questions:

  • If the Army maintains the majority of its space capabilities and formations, would you be willing to transfer to the Space Force? 85% said they would
  • If the Army transfers most existing space capabilities to the Space Force, but maintains SSEs, I2CEWS and similar formations, would you be willing to transfer if offered? 89% said they would
  • If the Army transfers all FA40s to the Space Force, would you transfer? 93% said they would

The SSEs are space support elements — small teams of FA40s assigned to tactical commanders to help integrate space expertise into the planning of operations and plans.

I2CEWS is short for intelligence, information, cyber, electronic warfare, and space units. This is the new unit that the Army has created to support multi-domain operations.

Most of the FA40s who would volunteer to leave the Army and join the Space Force are majors and captains.

Most of those who would not consider transferring said they viewed the Space Force as too Air Force-centric and were skeptical about their chances for promotion in the Space Force.

The officers who would make the move cite two main reasons: The excitement of being “plank owners” in a new service, and career opportunities that they believe would not be available in the Army. The term plank owners refers to members of newly commissioned units.

These are a some of the comments made by individual officers in the survey:

  • Our expertise is going to be essential for the success of this new service. The FA40’s will ensure the new service has the tactical, operational expertise needed to be successful.
  • The housing and schools were better for my family when we lived on an Air Force base. The Air Force values higher education far more than the Army when it comes to promotion boards. I’ve seen the power of FA40s working alongside the Air Force.
  • I think that the introduction of Army FA40s into the Space Force ranks would shake things up for the better.
  • Air Force culture is and will be an issue. The culture has largely transitioned to Space Force: Risk averse, overly strategic focus, system/capabilities focused. Army will need to heavily augment to pull them off the ledge.
  • I honestly believe that any space equities that do not belong to Space Force will be an afterthought for any other service.
  • While I think it is best for the Army to keep a large part of its space missions, I find it personally more desirable to work in a pure space environment.
  • The Space Force is entirely too Air Force centric. Changing Space Force culture to one of an operational-focused, warfighting mentality is on a generational timeline.
  • The FA40s that transfer over will be marginalized by the Air Force careerists who will consider FA40s a threat.

The U.S. Space Force for now is only asking Air Force space operators to voluntarily transfer and so far has no plans to invite members of the Army to join. Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson said there are existing authorities that allow members of any of the services to cross commission. But he said the Space Force will not “actively engage with the Army and the Navy” until a process is developed to figure out who will be eligible.

The Army claims to be the military’s biggest consumer of space based services. A typical Army brigade has over 2,500 GPS-enabled devices and over 250 satellite communications enabled devices. Army units provide space-based positioning, navigation and timing; situational awareness; communications; missile warning; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

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...