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U.S. Space Force enters ‘Year 2’ with momentum and soaring expectations

U.S. Space Command commander Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond and Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman present President Donald J. Trump with the Space Force flag in the Oval Office of the White House, May 15, 2020.

U.S. Space Command commander Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond and Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman present President Donald J. Trump with the Space Force flag in the Oval Office of the White House, May 15, 2020.

CMSgt Roger A. Towberman becomes the first Senior Enlisted Advisor of the U.S. Space Force.

With Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett looking on, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond administers the U.S. Space Force oath of enlistment to Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, Pentagon, Arlington, Va. April 3, 2020. Towberman will serve as the senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of Space Operations and Secretary of the Air Force on all issues regarding the welfare, readiness, morale, proper utilization and progress of the Space Force enlisted force and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force, center, administers the oath of office to NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, onboard the International Space Station, as he is transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Space Force, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, from the Space Operations Center at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force, center, administers the oath of office to NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, onboard the International Space Station, as he is transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Space Force, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, from the Space Operations Center at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky), Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, from the Space Operations Center at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Lt. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting, first commander of the newly re-designated Space Operations Command, receives his first salute as commander from the Space Delta and Garrison commanders and senior enlisted advisors during a ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Oct 21, 2020.

Lt. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting, first commander of the newly re-designated Space Operations Command, receives his first salute as commander from the Space Delta and Garrison commanders and senior enlisted advisors during a ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Oct 21, 2020. Whiting is now the commander of SpOC responsible for organizing, training, and equipping fielded space forces who will execute space warfighting operations for combatant commanders, coalition partners, the joint force, and the nation. SpOC is the first of three Space Force Field Commands. (U.S. Space Force Photo by SSgt Justin Armstrong)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- History was made here Dec. 10, as the first seven people to enlist directly into the U.S. Space Force graduated from Basic Military Training.

United States Space Force Tech. Sgt. Eric Mistrot, 324th Training Squadron military training instructor, stands in front of his flight during the graduation ceremony, Dec. 10, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Seven members of the graduating class are the first Space Force trainees to graduate. The number of Space Force trainees will continue to increase over time as processes for recruiting and training are solidified. Approximately 312 Space Force accessions will graduate from BMT this fiscal year. Currently all Space Force accessions will become Space Systems Operations specialists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --

From the publicly available view on the outside, the birth and creation of the nation’s newest military service was going well; there was general agreement as to the need for the new service, its strategic importance and how it would fit in to the nation’s existing and sprawling military enterprise.

Hidden, however, was a level of bureaucratic gamesmanship and “churn,” worrisome enough that it ultimately forced the President to step in. 

“There are still some of you who are thinking more of representing interests and objectives of your individual service than of interpreting the broad national program and its requirements to your subordinates and to the Congress,” the President admonished senior military leaders. 

President Harry Truman delivered that blunt directive in 1947 only months after the U.S. Air Force was born as the newest branch of a military long dominated by the Army and the Navy.

But now, as the year-old Space Force edges into its second year, that history stands in sharp contrast. This time, 73 years later, the internal struggles have been less fierce and have, for the most part, been addressed early and successfully. It has allowed the all-important roots of the Space Force to be “planted” and to take hold.

That was the message delivered recently by the service’s highest-ranking officer, Chief of Space Operations, Gen. Jay Raymond in a session where he looked back to evaluate the Space Force’s first year in existence and to discuss what comes next.

Part of Raymond’s job is to be a cheerleader. Yet even he was surprised by the distance covered since the Space Force was born Dec. 20, 2019.

“We were up and running ‘Day One.’ And we have not let our foot off the accelerator ever since,” Raymond said.

“We’ve been focused on five key areas that I think an independent service needs to focus on,” he said, listing them as “developing our people,” formulating an official warfighting doctrine, writing the service’s first budget, “designing” the blueprint for how the force is organized and deployed, and finally, presenting those forces to combatant commanders. 

“The progress we have made far surpasses anything that I would have expected,” he said.

The list of achievements is lengthy.

A partial inventory shows that over the past year, about 2,400 Airmen have officially transferred to the Space Force. Most are crucially important space operators. The first “Space Force Detachment” was formed at the Air Force Academy and established a new minor in space warfighting. The “leadership team” was “built,” comprised of a four-star Vice Chief of Space Operations and four, three-star generals who were nominated and confirmed by the Senate. The Space Force also added a Senior Enlisted Advisor.

The Space Force’s first space warfighting doctrine was written and published. That blueprint emphasized speed, a heavy use of digital tools and joint operations. Raymond designed a new field command structure that eliminated two layers of command to increase “decision speed.” That step embracing the doctrine’s outlook and priorities.

In a clear move from a “paper force” to one with people on the ground and in operation, the Space Force successfully transferred all space missions and capabilities from the Air Force. Also completed was a study on how best to transfer space missions and capabilities from the Army, Navy, and other Department of Defense components.

The Space Force wrote and submitted its first budget, a $15.4 billion request for fiscal 2021. Understanding that acquisition is a critical function, Raymond and his partners moved to consolidate space acquisition “under one roof,” to streamline the process and provide unity of effort.

“This first year was all about inventing that service. This next year is all about integrating the Space Force more broadly,” Raymond said. 

Conscious of historic turf battles and the critical importance of space, Raymond said, he understood from the start how important it would be to collaborate with all services and work as cooperatively as possible.

“We worked very closely with the Army and the Navy,” he said, noting a successfully completed study examining how to fold in personnel and components of other services with minimal disruption, building out a force that ultimately will number 16,000 personnel.

“I think we’re probably … 98 percent in agreement,” Raymond said. “There’s a couple little things we’re working through, but I would expect that you’ll see some inter-service transfers this year. Again, to note, you can’t break the Army, you can’t break the Navy in standing up the Space Force. So we’ll do this in a way that consolidates those capabilities where needed and strengthens our joint warfighting readiness on both the Space Force side and the other services. And that’s part of that integration work for this next year.”

That next phase – and a major focus in Year 2, he said, is based on five, overarching priorities articulated in another milestone document, the CSO Planning Guidance. 

“Empowering a lean and agile service, developing joint warfighters into world-class teams, delivering new capabilities and being able to do that at speed, which is critical; expanding our cooperation and partnerships … and then the fifth area is building the service as a digital service. 

“The priorities for next year are going to focus on designing a force and the capabilities that (that force) will provide,” he said. Moving in tandem, he said, is “presenting those forces … as an independent service to the joint force.”

That’s the plan. Whether it plays out exactly as hoped is unknown. Budget constraints could cause adjustments and there will be a new secretary for the Department of the Air Force, as well as a new Secretary of Defense and other senior leaders in the Pentagon.

Raymond is aware of the uncertainties. But he insists his larger goal for moving the Space Force forward will not change.

“What I will tell you (is that) isn’t going to change my focus or the focus of our team,” he said. “And that (focus is) on building a service that delivers national advantage. … It has always been known that the U.S. is more secure when you have freedom of access to space and freedom to maneuver in space. 

“ … It provides so much for our economy. It provides so much for our national security. And what we’re going to do is keep focused on building that service, building the partnerships … and provide our nation” the force it needs to defend its vital national interests in space, he said.