Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond is the first Chief of Space Operations of the new U.S. Space Force. He spoke with Air Force Magazine Senior Editor Rachel S. Cohen about the service’s future. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: The Space Force turns 1 year old this winter. What are some of your goals over the next few months?
A: I really couldn’t be more excited for where we are and what we’ve already accomplished, and maybe even more excited about the opportunities that are ahead of us. The U.S. is leading in space globally. We’ve seen other countries follow suit as the U.S. has elevated space, … with France, for example, the United Kingdom, and now Japan standing up a space unit, with more to follow. … I’ve visited a few universities since we’ve been established and what I’m being told by those universities is their applications for getting into space-related majors are up, and so I think there’s a lot of good news for our nation.
On the people side, … in December, we’ll probably be around 2,500-ish. This [fiscal] year, we’ll get to roughly 6,700 folks that are on Active duty, and we’ll have civilians with us as well. … We’ve got people coming in from all accession sources. We graduated the first [U.S. Air Force Academy] class that had direct commissions, with 86 cadets coming in. … Our first two [Officer Training School] graduates got commissioned directly into the Space Force. … Our first seven basic military trainees have now arrived at BMT, and will graduate in December. It will be the first direct accessions on the enlisted side into the force.
We’ve got the Space Systems Command that we’ve architected, and we’ll stand that up in the spring … of this coming year, along with what we’re calling [Space Training and Readiness] Command.
We’re still in the final stages of coordinating [the new acquisition strategy], but I think that’s going to pay significant dividends for us. The acquisition organization that we designed will focus on pushing authority down to a lower level, bringing unity of effort across the department, and being able to get at speed the capabilities that we need. We’re embracing digital engineering as our standard.
We also took the first step toward … building a missile warning, missile defense partnership, taking an enterprise approach to that and getting those requirements approved by the [Joint Requirements Oversight Council].
When a service stands up—in my opinion—there’s five things a service needs to do to deliver value. First, you need to develop your people. Second, you have to have your doctrine, which we’ve already completed. Third, you have to have your own budget. Again, we’ve already done that. Fourth, … you have to design your force and your force structure. Then fifth, you have to present that force to combatant commands. In the next few months [as of Oct. 29], we’ll release the [force design] planning guidance. And then in the months after that, we’re going to build the force design, and in doing so, bring unity of effort across the department and reduce the bureaucracy that’s involved as well, to get everybody rowing in the same direction, reduce duplication of effort, reduce costs, and get capabilities on orbit fast.
The first year is largely inventing the force. This next year is really integrating that force. This force design will help us integrate with the Department of Defense and the Joint Staff and our other services. … With a small service, we have an opportunity to [collaborate with foreign countries, commercial companies, and NASA] even more fully.
Q: Where do you want to be one year from now?
A: Our staff structure is already built at the Pentagon. We’ll get more people on board. Today we have roughly about 200 on the staff. We’re going to grow to about 600 total. It will take us a couple years to do that. … I would really like to have a top level of force design done and approved by the department.
Our commissioning sources and enlisted accessions will be further refined. We’ll stand up professional military educational courses designed for space and continue to evolve those. … On the 20th of December, I’ll be an official member of the Joint Chiefs. Although I’m treated like one today, I go to all the meetings, … officially one year out is when the law says I become an official member.
Q: What’s the status of agreeing on which Army and Navy components to bring into the Space Force, and what are the opportunities and challenges there?
A: I am very pleased with the work that has gone on. We are at about … 98 percent agreement. You won’t see a wholesale taking space out of other organizations. We can’t break the Navy, we can’t break the Army. But you’re going to see those things that make sense, from a mission of the Space Force, to take over, and we’re in vast agreement. There’s a couple of minor issues that we’re discussing, and I would expect we’ll hammer those out over [November] or so. Then the Secretary of Defense will make a decision, and off we go. But we’re really close.
Our S1 [personnel staff] is working with the Army A1 and the Navy N1 to get volunteers. Every person that comes over to the Space Force is a volunteer. We can’t order somebody to come over. Luckily, we have way more volunteers to come over than we have positions for. We can be very selective. We put in place a process … modeled after the nuclear Navy, and we’re going to interview everybody that wants to come in.
I don’t think there’s any more significant challenges than what we’ve already worked over the last year with putting all the processes in place for Airmen to transfer over. … We wanted to do it in a way that didn’t hurt people’s careers and provided them an opportunity to have a career path that would be professionally rewarding to them. … The same thing will apply for other services.
For example … we designed a way to assign those [Air Force Research Laboratory] folks in the Space Force, but leave them where they are, with an agreement that they could also benefit from the collaboration of all the other labs. Those are the types of issues that we’re working, for example, with the Navy: How would you do that to make sure that you don’t break the synergies of an organization?
Q: How has your thinking evolved about the right way to address incidents like the Russian “inspector” satellite that the U.S. says threaten National Reconnaissance Office satellites. How do you react to and plan for that as a service?
A: In every talk I give, I say, ‘Space is a warfighting domain, just like air, land, and sea.’ One of the things that we’ve found, I’ve learned, and I know we’ve learned, is the implications of that statement are significant. The other thing that I always say in every speech is that we want to deter conflict from beginning [in] or ascending into space. The thing that I have learned [is] the value of communicating what an adversary is doing in space. You have seen me in my former [U.S. Space Command boss] hat talk more broadly about what we’re seeing, … what Russia has been doing over the last several months. I think it’s important to have a conversation on what [are] safe and professional behaviors in space.
The value of partnerships is really important. The work that we’re doing with our partners, largely Five Eyes partners, plus France, Germany, and Japan, is something that the Space Force is really focusing on. … We still have data-sharing arrangements with many different organizations in many countries, to keep the domain safe for all. We’re progressing onto not just data-sharing, but training together, operating together, exercising together, war-gaming together, building capabilities together. When we stood up U.S. Space Command … I designed an organization called the Combined Force Space Component Command. That was purposely done to make that a combined organization … with our partners. It’s the first time we’ve ever had that.
A big, ripe area for the Space Force that we’re working hard on is overclassification. If you want to deter, you have to be able to help shape an adversary’s calculus, and that requires being able to communicate. Right now, we’re overly classified. I think we’re making some really good work on the strategy on what you would reveal and what you would conceal, which then drives the security architecture that will be beneficial for our efforts to deter.
(Raymond declined to answer how the military responded to Russian satellite activity.)
Q: What are you planning to work on with Capitol Hill in the next year?
A: We’ve done a lot of design work [on] … how do you integrate the Reserve forces into the Space Force? Today we operate very closely with the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. We think there is [a way to include Reservists differently], and we’ve done the work to be able to do that. … I would expect that that plan will be approved here, probably before [December]. … But it’s really innovative. That will require some legislative proposals to make that happen.
The alternate acquisition system that we’ve designed, once we get finally coordinated, will require some legislative changes. We’ll work very closely with the Hill to be able to do that as well.
Q: Where do you stand on adopting naval ranks like the House proposes?
A: I really appreciate the strong bipartisan support that Congress has given us. We’re working very closely to develop the rank structures that we think are important for our force going forward. … Some of these culture pieces are things that we want to get right. We want to give an opportunity for the folks that are in our service to have a voice. We’ve just brought in the first 2,100 folks in the service. We’ve been very deliberate in our efforts to make sure that these things that we do, either the seals or the flags or the naming convention, mean something to the Space Professionals.
We have been in conversations with the staffers, and I’ve had a couple conversations with members on our ideas on rank.
Q: How have you seen the understanding of military space capabilities change across DOD in recent months?
A: Earlier in my career, you really had to fight to get a seat at the table. It was hard to get people to understand the importance of space. We were just beginning, back when I was a young captain, to integrate space into the fight. Desert Storm was what some call the first space war, the first where we integrated capabilities. That has continued to mature over the years.
You don’t have to have that conversation anymore. They understand it. … On the warfighting side, they understand the value of a U.S. Space Command. They already see the benefits of that command standing up, and same thing holds true on the organize, train, and equip side. I have not felt at all like anything other than, ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here, and keep moving. This is really important to us.’
Both on the U.S. Space Command side and on the Space Force, I have a stronger voice in requirements. When you elevate from a component of a service to an independent service, there’s a big difference between being an Air Force major command commander and being a service chief. That elevation of voice in really critical settings, in budget requirements, and in The Tank, is important.