Space Corp Assessment by June 1, Shanahan Says

Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, salutes Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, during a ceremony at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., Dec. 1, 2017. USAF photo.

The Pentagon’s “interim” evaluation of whether a new Space Corps is needed will be done by June 1, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at a Defense Writer’s Group session Tuesday.

Shanahan says he “likes the challenge” he’s been given to decide whether space war needs a new specialized branch to prosecute or whether the Air Force should continue to have space as a major part of its portfolio. He’s been at the task for six months.

“My focus has been to get at what are the fundamental changes we need to make in order to be more effective. The output of that is a recommendation on how to restructure,” he said. “From a management standpoint, the easiest thing to do is re-draw the lines and boxes on an [organization] chart, but that’s actually the hardest thing to implement.”

Shanahan said the process from here on out will be to “finish the analysis of what changes we have to make in the organization, … our acquisition process and our architectures, and how we integrate across services” to determine “what offensive capability we need, what defensive capability, and based on the changes that are required … [determine] the right construct.”

“To me,” he continued, “the right construct is a function of, do we have the right leadership? Do we have the right changes? … Can we change the types of systems we put on orbit quickly enough for the right cost and … technical advantage?” He said he’s been working closely with USAF Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, Gen. Jay Raymond of Air Force Space Command, and Lt. Gen. John Thompson of USAF’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif.

“If they can’t do it, then that suggests maybe you go a different way,” Shanahan asserted. “This is where we’ve been putting the Air Force and others to the paces. What changes are you willing to commit to? And then really exploring the feasibility of those changes.”

Finally, any changes have to meet the acid test, he noted. “Before you can make an organizational recommendation,” the final question is, “all right, at what cost? Because these things aren’t free.”

Shanahan said the Air Force has been “very, very responsive” in the dialog about a possible Space Corps. “This is not something they’re pushing back on,” he said, and both Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have been “leading the charge, … so it’s been a good exercise.” Shanahan added, “We’ll stare hard into the facts” and “I think we’ll come up with a good answer.”