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SN Military.Space Sandra Erwin

The Air Force’s advocacy group, the Air Force Association, is taking off the gloves and pointedly voicing opposition to separating space out of the Air Force.

“The U.S. Air Force has led the armed forces in establishing America’s space capability such that it is unrivaled in the world,” the association says in a position paper. “Today, to split up the well-integrated set of air and space capabilities that have been organized to seamlessly contribute to America’s military capabilities would result in more harm than good.”

Air Force Association

NOW WHAT? The Space Force polemic has created an awkward climate at the association’s Air Space Cyber symposium, which always has promoted the space activities and leaders of the service. It’s a delicate situation not just for Air Force officials but also for military contractors that do business with the Air Force and don’t want to be caught in the middle of an ugly political brawl.

Gen. John Raymond Speaks at the "Fighting Under Fire" Panel Discussion

For now, the Air Force space warriors are sort of stuck in a “no man’s land” until the reorganization gets sorted out. The service’s highest ranked space warrior, Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, bowed out of a much-anticipated joint appearance on Wednesday with space billionaire Jeff Bezos. Did this have anything to do with Trump’s feud with Bezos, who owns rocket manufacturer Blue Origin and also one of Trump’s frequent twitter targets, The Washington Post? A spokesman for Raymond did not respond to questions about the general’s change of plans. Given AFA’s stance against the Space Force, it is not surprising that he would prefer to keep a low profile.

Bezos will be joined on stage by retired Gen. Larry Spencer, AFA President and CEO.

BUSINESS GOES ON On the sidelines of the symposium, meanwhile, business conversations continue as military leaders search for the next big thing in space technology, said Bill Beyer, a defense and national security consultant at Deloitte. “There is a convergence of military and commercial space, and mutual interest in both.”

One of the debates is what capabilities the military should buy from the private sector and which ones it should develop in-house, said Beyer. “What’s innately governmental, what’s innately commercial? And where are the overlaps?”

The military wants to be able to “engage the commercial sector and see if they can move the needle in the right direction.”

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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...