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U.S. Space Force meeting mission demands despite coronavirus adjustments

graphic with words United States Space Force

U.S. Space Force organizes, trains, and equips space forces in order to protect and defend U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force.

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John Raymond, on Tuesday said critical space missions are continuing even though the nation’s newest military service is taking “active measures” to protect personnel from the COVID-19.

“In the face of COVID-19 we are continuing to provide the capabilities that are critical our American way of life,” Raymond said during an hour-long virtual appearance with Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “I’m very comfortable that we will continue to provide those capabilities without fail.”

In additional to rigorously following federal guidelines to protect personnel from a virus for which there is no vaccine or immunity, Raymond said more stringent steps such as “sequestering certain crews” are being taken in some locations to ensure the COVID-19 has minimal impact on critical operations.

Even so, some aspects of the Space Force are affected. “There are some things we have scaled back,” Raymond said. “For example, we have cancelled Space Flag training … We’re going to mitigate the loss of that by doing more local training.”

Like other branches of the military, Raymond has instituted a flexible approach that allows local commanders to adjust protections based on local circumstances.

“It’s not a one-size-fit all because space units are very diverse; everything from units up in Thule, Greenland to Colorado Springs to Denver” to facilities in the Pacific and elsewhere across the Arctic.

Raymond also noted that the critical planning to successfully build and sustain the Space Force is progressing and that the actual number of commissioned Space Force personnel is on the verge of growing. Currently, only Raymond and newly installed Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, are the only two official members of the Space Force. That number will grow later this month when 88 graduates from the Air Force Academy will be directly commissioned into the force.

Those Space Professionals are augmented by 16,000 Air Force personnel who are currently assigned to the U.S. Space Force.

Raymond said he is pleased with status of the force and is pressing the planners to innovate.

“We haven’t taken our foot off the accelerator in establishing the Space Force,” he said in response to a question. “We’ve been provided a huge opportunity to build the service from the ground up and start with a clean sheet of paper that is not tied to how we’ve done business in the past. We are building a service that is purpose built for the challenges that we face in the space domain.”

Raymond said work continues on developing an acquisition strategy that must be conveyed to Congress. He also said work continues on an overarching Space Force doctrine that will help define the priorities, capabilities and culture of the institution. A major element of that doctrine, he said, is ensuring seamless connection with the joint force.

“Our desire is not to get into a conflict that begins or extends into space. We want to deter that from happening,” he said. “But if deterrence were to fail, we are going to have to fight for space superiority in the future. And to do that will require the full weight of the joint force and so that will require Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Space Force to gain that space superiority.”

In response to a question about the pace of developing and establishing the Space Force, Raymond noted a formal action March 31 by Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett that identified 23 U.S. Air Force organizations whose space-related missions will soon transfer to the Space Force.

Under Barrett’s action, the goal is to have each of the 23 space missions formally transferred from the Air Force into the Space Force within the next three to six months based on timing and conditions specific to each organization and mission. Raymond and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein have been delegated the authority to actually execute the transfer when they jointly agree the necessary conditions have been met to affect a smooth transfer.