Space Command Will Help the US Retake the Lead in Space

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The space race is very much
on, and the United States needs to up its game.  

That was the message
President Donald Trump conveyed in a series of speeches that began in March of
2018, and next week, his administration will take a major stride to do just
that. 

On Thursday, Aug. 29, the
Defense Department will formally establish the U.S. Space Command as the 11th unified
combatant command. This seminal event is the second in a series of steps that
are impressive in scope, outlook, and impact.

For
decades, our nation has promoted and sustained a policy of peaceful use of
space, all the while taking full advantage of the military attributes this
“high ground” has to offer.

U.S. global
positioning satellites (GPS), along with our space-based intelligence and
communications platforms, have delivered asymmetrical advantages to our
military since the days of Desert Storm—to the point that they have changed the
way we fight. 

Russia
and China have observed this transition, and they have developed their own significant
military capabilities that can challenge the United States in space. Indeed, space
must now be considered a full warfighting domain.   

In August of 2018, an independent study aptly titled the “Final Report on Organizational and Management Structure for the National Security Space Components of the Department of Defense” emerged from a bipartisan congressional directive.

The report held several major recommendations that, once executed, would help to reestablish our dominance and protect our interests in the space domain. 

Last fall,
the Trump administration moved on its first recommendation by establishing the
Space Development Agency—a consolidated agency to direct and oversee the
military’s space development.

Prior to this
agency, six different organizations were tasked with managing space equipment requirements,
and eight others were charged with acquisition. This spread-out authority consistently
led to program delays, cost overruns, and even system cancellations.  

The Space
Development Agency will streamline acquisition to equip the Defense Department
with cutting-edge technology that will outpace our near-peer competitors in the
years ahead. 

The second
step was detailed last December in a Presidential Space Memorandum directing
the establishment of the U.S. Space Command. In the words of Gen. John Hyten, commander
of U.S. Strategic Command, “We have to have a commander focused on it all the
time from an operational perspective … somebody in the Pentagon that focuses
their total attention on space all the time.” 

Just as
Central Command handles military operations in the Middle East, Space Command
will be charged with those same responsibilities in the domain of space. 

When Gen. Jay
Raymond accepts command of that organization next week, he will inherit 87
units that cover the gamut—from missile warning, to satellite operations, space
control, and space support. His job will be to organize,
unify, and then focus that team on the new challenge: waging and winning a war
in space. 

Unified combatant
commanders receive forces that are trained and equipped by services established
specifically for the air, land, and naval domains. Those services ingrain the tactics,
standards, and doctrines that allow them to fight as a cohesive team.  

The independent
report recommended that Congress fill that void for Space Command by establishing
the Space Force.

In the heated
political environment that currently envelopes Washington, it is hard to
imagine how Congress might bridge the divide long enough to craft the legislation
required to establish a new service. The fact that both the House and Senate
versions of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act do just that should get
our attention.  

Foreign threats
from space are real, but the president and this Congress are taking steps to help
quell those threats. The administration’s comprehensive drive may very well put
us back in the lead of space exploration. 

Securing
space and reviving manned exploration won’t be cheap, but as Gen. James H. Doolittle
said in 1959, “We, the United States of America, can be first. If we do not
expend the thought, the effort, and the money required, then another and more
progressive nation will. They will dominate space, and they will dominate the
world.” 

The choice is
ours, and this administration is making the right one.