Goldfein Says Full Speed Ahead Toward Space Force, But Make Sure It Stays Integrated

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein addresses attendees on Sept. 17, 2019, as part of AFA's 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., near Washington, D.C. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

The Air Force is fully behind the push toward a Space Force as a separate, sixth service, but it must be created carefully so that the integration of air and space power doesn’t suffer as a result, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told attendees at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference in his Sept. 17 keynote speech.

“There’s no such thing as war in space,” Goldfein said, “there’s just war,” although, “if you’re going to win, you’ve got to win first in space.” It’s the Air Force’s job to “bring on this new service” because it is the organization that is “most passionate about air and space superiority” and is the service likely to provide the most assets to a Space Force, in terms of people and equipment.

Goldfein credited President Trump as having raised the issue of space as a combat domain because before that happened, “I couldn’t talk about” space and plans for combat there “in the same sentence.” The raising of the issue has been “a gift,” Goldfein asserted, that has opened up a worthwhile discussion.

In the transition, “we’ve got to defend what we have,” meaning the seamless integration of operations in the two domains, as part of the much larger integration of air, space, cyber, surface, and undersea. “We have to transition to a defendable architecture. And we are moving out to do that.”

The Air Force has been given an opportunity to “build something really positive,” he said. The services have to “find the sweet spot, because most of the Space Force will come out of our service, with our joint teammates.” The new service has to be built “on a foundation of trust and confidence, while at the same time allowing this service enough room to develop its own unique culture.”

Goldfein said that “winning” the transition will be obvious if, in the future, a Red Flag commander “steps up on the stage and briefs his or her mission, and they start with the space warfighting integration, cyber warfighting integration, and then their mission, and everybody goes out and they execute.”

“Losing,” he said, “looks like: We allow space to be separated as we go about building a separate service. So we’ve got to find this sweet spot to ensure that space remains integrated.”