Gen. Jay Raymond, the Chief of Space Operations (CSO) heading up the new U.S. Space Force, is grappling with a different sort of problem: Deterring adversaries in space, where the full complement of U.S. capabilities is shrouded in secrecy.
Effective deterrence requires a certain amount of transparency, enough at least to make clear that certain actions could evoke highly undesirable reactions.
“We are overly classified,” Raymond said flatly during a video conversation with retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. The Space Force will need to open up with allies to coordinate space activities with them and share enough with the rest of the world for potential adversaries to be able to see that broad unity of effort. The aim is “to change the calculus” for any nation contemplating action against U.S. or allied assets.
“We are working on the strategy to do that,” Raymond said. Initial efforts to build space partnerships with France, Germany, Japan, and others have begun. These include linking operations centers, putting hosted payloads on allied satellites, and creating a Combined Space Force Component Command. The work is already “paying big dividends,” Raymond said, and in the future will be “absolutely critical for us.”
Building a new deterrence strategy goes hand in hand with developing a Space Force doctrine for a world in which space is getting “more crowded” and more dangerous. Raymond said his marching orders from Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett remain as before: Be bold. “Build the service that we need, and that’s what we’re focused on.” Raymond described five lines of business in his planning: organization; human capital and development; acquisition; architecture; and culture, “which obviously takes some time.”
Raymond said his team identified those people and organizations that should become part of the Space Force but were not already attached to Air Force Space Command, which made up the initial cadre reporting up to him as CSO. That scrub identified 23 organizations and about 1,840 Airmen who will be reassigned to the Space Force over the next six months. They will join some 16,000 people whose jobs will be transferred to the Space Force over time. Meanwhile, organizers are “collapsing layers of command,” Raymond said, to build a “light, lean, agile force that’s innovative and can go fast.”
A similar scrub is underway across the other military services, Raymond said. “We are doing what we did with the Air Force: to canvass the Army and Navy to figure out … how we unify efforts across the Department.”
Just having “space” in an organization’s name or mission set is not necessarily enough to warrant a move. In some cases, those capabilities will remain central to the original service. “We have to also be careful we don’t break” the Air Force, Army, or Navy when space components are reassigned.
Work on the Pentagon’s fiscal 2022 budget is already underway, Raymond said; the first that will have a stand-alone Space Force budget. Raymond said he’s not looking for a surge in space spending, only what’s appropriate for activities in that domain. After that, “it will compete across the Department of Defense for funding.” Raymond added that he doesn’t envision Space Force will ever “be the size of an Army or Navy” but will be focused on “high tech, and we’re going to design it that way.”
The budget will also reflect that “we’re doing all the culture and outreach kinds of things [that] you would expect: seals, logos, uniforms, songs and that type of work, which will be important to our service.”
Raymond said work was proceeding to develop a “foundational” space acquisition capability that draws on expertise from all the other services. Again, he said he’s “canvassing” the services “for what authorities they have that we would like to adopt, that work well … and pull those together.” The watchwords will be speed, agility, and efficiency in buying, he said.
The Space Team
Raymond was the first official member of the Space Force and as of April 15, was still one of only two, with Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, Command Senior Enlisted Leader of U.S. Space Command, having been sworn in as the second member April 3. The next up will be 88 new graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy, sworn in April 18 at their early graduation. The new grads will be “a mixture of space operations, acquisition, engineering, and computer software programmers,” Raymond said, and could be joined by one or more West Point or Annapolis grads later this spring.
The Space Force is bringing in a civilian workforce, as well. “I think you’ll see an increase in use of civilians and contractors,” Raymond said. “We have the authority to direct-hire folks out of industry.” The Space Force will be small and therefore can be highly selective, he added. “The numbers of people that are knocking on our door, begging to be a part of this,” shows true national excitement, he said. In an initial hiring notice for about 60 jobs “we got 5,700 applicants,” Raymond said. Finding the right people will not be hard, he added. “We’re going to get the talent we need.”
Joint All-Domain Necessities
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has been talking about multi-domain operations since he became the Air Force’s top officer four years ago. This year the language, budget implications, and narrative changed, as well.
In a video interview with Mitchell’s Deptula, he said he’s tripled the number of engagements between top USAF leadership, Congress, and congressional staffs to sell what’s now called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).
“It’s a tough conversation,” he said, because to pay for a new, invisible connectivity, the Air Force must divest tangible assets, including B-1 bombers, aerial tankers, and other aircraft. Those assets translate to jobs on bases in lawmakers’ home districts in ways that a network may not. Goldfein admits JADC2 is not “something you can put your hands on,” but without that network, assuring future victory against peer adversaries becomes nearly impossible.
One of the reasons he feels confident that the Air Force can tolerate giving up aircraft is that he’s got hot production lines building new fighters, bombers, tankers, and trainers.
“I’ve got a unique situation,” he said. Programs built and funded by past Chiefs are delivering now. “Hot lines … allow me as the Chief and us as an Air Force to take more risk on those legacy systems.”
Picking and choosing cuts where they can be afforded makes sense, Goldfein said.
“What we’re doing is fleet management,” he said. “I’m looking tail by tail and parking [the most troubled planes] in the boneyard.” That frees up funds “to first go back into the remaining inventory to modernize it and get it back up to speed, and then move forward with the remaining fleet.”
Upgrading the remaining B-1s, for example, will make those aircraft “exceptional,” Goldfein said. Building B-21 production capability means if more aircraft are needed than currently planned, that can be supported over time. The same holds for fighters and tankers.
Who’s Going to Find and Fix?
The JADC2 is an imperative, he said.
“I try to be the conscience of the Department when it comes to ‘find, fix, finish’ … the kill chain,” Goldfein said. “It’s easy to talk about ‘finish’ and long-range fires. The question I ask about those program charts—if you want to do long-range strike, hypersonics, artificial intelligence—[is] how exactly are you going to get the data that you require? … Who’s solving that for you?”
This is usually followed by a “long pause in the room,” Goldfein said, “and I use that pause to say, ‘OK, let’s talk about Joint All-Domain Command and Control.’”
“We’ve done the analysis for the force we’re moving toward,” Goldfein said, and lawmakers seem to understand the issues once the briefings are done. “I haven’t come across one staffer or member who didn’t say, ‘I get it,’” once the issues had been clearly laid out. Investing in JADC2 now is “a step we can’t skip.”
Downward pressure on future defense budgets was already visible a year ago, but with the nation taking on trillions in new debt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those pressures will only increase in the future. Goldfein said he expects tough choices ahead.
No one in current DOD leadership has faced declining budgets before, but as budgets tighten, “we are going to have to take a hard look at where we have duplication,” Goldfein said. That could mean questioning strategic decisions in the Army to invest in long-range fires or in how the services invest in new developments, such as hypersonics. He called recent collaboration there the “gold standard” and dismissed the idea that long-range fires alone can win future wars.
“A significant number of wargames” demonstrated that stand-off attacking forces alone did not prevail, Goldfein said. Victory occurred only with a “hybrid” force of stand-in and stand-off capabilities, operating both inside and outside the enemy’s air defense zones.
“This can’t be a gut feeling,” Goldfein remarked. “We owe it to the nation to show—with analytical rigor—why we believe that this is the force that actually wins in the future. And what wins is [a force] that has a combination of what works inside and … outside.”
Don’t Cut the ICBMs
Goldfein is no less focused on keeping the strategic modernization plan intact. Some in Congress see the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent as too expensive and argue it’s time to eliminate the land-based leg of the nuclear triad.
But Goldfein remains convinced that the ground-based ICBM force is foundational to deterrence.
“We’ve got several hundred missiles buried in the Northern Tier,” he said. “There is no adversary on the planet that has what it takes to take them out. … So we will always have a second-strike capability that will destroy any nation who chooses to take us on. …They cannot take out that leg.”
Giving that up puts deterrence at risk, Goldfein said.
Russia has already modernized its strategic forces, Goldfein said, suggesting that the way to build-down is to build up.
“I would never advise, in any way … that we should unilaterally reduce our capacity and capability without getting anything in return,” he said. “That, to me, would be the worst advice I could ever give.”