Technology, Innovation and Modern War — Class 12 — The Space Force — General John Raymond
We just held our twelfth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern War. Joe Felter, Raj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies — Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.
Today’s topic was The Space Force and Modern War.
Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous eleven classes here.
Some of the readings for this week included: CRS Report on Space Force, Summary of the Defense Space Strategy, Space Force’s Capstone Doctrine “Space Power”, State of the Space Industrial Base 2020, Space as a Warfighting Domain, Russia gears up for electronic warfare in space, Chief of Space Operations Planning Guidance
It’s amazing to think that it’s been 75 years since the U.S. created a new service, which was when the Air Force spun out of what was the Army Air Force post-World War Two. The creation of the Space Force is an indication of everything we’ve been talking about in this class — about the changes in technology and threats, the speed at which those are happening simultaneously and the new organizational models needed to counter them.
Formation of the Space Force
Last year, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the birth certificate, if you will, for the United States Space Force. And I’ve been privileged and honored to lead that group of folks, some very sharp space professionals in establishing this force. There’s no checklist on how to do this. There’s really no history to go back to. But we are moving out with great speed, to be able to establish this force.
Why do we need a Space Force?
The strategic environment we face today is rapidly changing. And the nature of warfare is changing. We’ve been involved in the space business in the military since the 1950s when space was a great power competition. And what started out as nation state versus nation state has evolved to where we have students building satellites. We started developing capabilities as part of that great power competition with the Soviet Union. I’ll highlight a few demarcation points where I think there was some significant shifts.
Desert Storm and Space
In 1991 we went to war in Desert Storm to evict Iraq out of Kuwait. And that really was the first space war. It’s the first war where space was integrated into theater operations. The U.S and coalition forces did a left hook through the desert at night on a featureless terrain to maneuver against the adversary. And the way we did that was using a GPS constellation that wasn’t even fully up and operating. Iraq was also launching Scud missiles and we used Strategic Missile warning capabilities that we have (in space) to detect ICBMs, and we used them to be able to give warning of these smaller rockets.
Since that time my whole career has been focused on integrating space capabilities and everything that we do as a joint and coalition force. And today there’s nothing that we do that isn’t enabled by space, whether it’s humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and all the way up through conflict.
China’s Anti-Satellite Demonstration
The next demarcation was 2007, when China launched a missile that blew up one of their own satellites into about 3000 pieces of debris. That was the wakeup call that space may no longer be the peaceful, benign domain we hoped, or we wished it would be. It was no longer just using our space-based capabilities and integrating those capabilities into operations. Now we had to worry about protecting and defending those capabilities. Everything from jamming of GPS and communication satellites, to laser threats, to on orbit activities, to cyber threats, to missiles that can be launched from the ground that that can blow up a satellite.
Defending Space — Part 1 — Space Command
Because of this changing strategic environment, the United States over the course of the past few years has been in a dialogue on what’s the best way to organize for space.
Space had long been part of the Air Force and the thought was, we really need to elevate space to a level commensurate with its importance to national security. In the Department of Defense, we’re organized two ways. One part of the organization -the eleven combatant commands — are focused on warfighting. There used to be a command called U.S. Space Command, but it was stood down shortly after 9/11 and the responsibility for space moved underneath U.S. Strategic Command. In August 2019 we reestablished Space Command as its own combatant command.
Setting up Space Command as its own combatant command was one part of that equation. And I was privileged to plan it and then be its first commander.
Defending Space — Part 2 — The Space Force
A few months later, in December 2019, the United States decided to elevate what we call the “organize, train and equip” part of the military. That’s what services like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and now the Space Force do. And space moved from underneath the United States Air Force to become its own independent service. I served as both the Commander of U.S Space Command and was the The Space Forcechief until August 2019, when we split the hats and now there’s a new commander for U.S Space Command, and I’m solely focused on the organize, train, equip, part — the Space Force.
As a Dual-hatted Commander it Must Have Been Fun Writing Memos to Yourself
It’s interesting when you’re dual-hatted as a service chief and a combatant commander, you get to write yourself a letter saying, hey, dummy, why did you do that? And so it’s kind of fun. But a combatant commander has a much more narrow, short-term focus. He or she has to conduct operations today. A service chief tends to think longer. I want to build the service for the future. And that tension between near term and future is why that structure in the Department of Defense is so important. Where you have two different, two distinct functions, that provides a healthy tension.
In the stand up of the U.S. Space Command and the Space Force, I think Congress got it exactly right, when they said that the commander of Space Command could be the service Chief for up to a year. Because when we were standing these organizations up, I was able to make organization or enterprise level trades between the two organizations. And it was much easier. And now that we have those structures built and we have the staffs designed, almost all those trades are done. Now it’s time to split those hats and get two distinct four stars with separate focus running fast.
Organizing the Space Force as an Independent Service
Let me give you a few thoughts on what an independent service needs to do and some of the things we’re thinking through.
There are five things we have to do to set up Space Force:
- Developing our own people is a big piece of what we’re focusing on. We’re inventing this service, because we don’t want to just build what we had, we want to invent something new, that’s purpose built for this domain, to be able to get after the challenges that this domain provides us.
- We have to have our own doctrine. And so we just published our first independent space force doctrine called “Space Power.”
- We have to have our own budget. We took all the dollars that were associated for space from the Air Force and brought them into the space force.
- We have to design our forces to be able to operate in a contested environment and to reduce duplication of effort, enhance our speed and reduce costs.
- We have to present those forces to a warfighting commander.
There are several lines of effort that we’re focusing on:
- We’re working to build the Space Force as a very Lean and Agile service. We don’t want to be big and slow, we want to go fast. The domain that we operate in is huge, it’s 100 kilometers above the surface and higher. And so that vastness of space and the speed at which things move is significant.
- We also want to be able to build capabilities at speed and acquire capabilities at speed.
- We’re developing this service as the first digital service; to have a digital headquarters, a more fluent digital workforce. Everybody that comes into the space force will learn coding and adopt digital engineering standards as our as our standard for acquisition.
- We’re also focusing on partnerships. We believe that with this service, we can develop closer ties to our allies around the globe and to commercial industry, and be on the cutting edge of innovative industries going forward.
- We need to develop space experts that understand how to operate in the contested domain. Today, we’ve got the world’s best space operators, but train them to operate in a benign domain. We’re shifting to train them to operate in a contested domain.
How Did You Organize Space Force Staff Functions?
The plan was to have over 1000 people on the staff. I thought that was going to be too clunky, too big and too slow. We’ve whittled that staff size down to less than 600. However, having said that, you have to be able to operate inside the Department of Defense. And there’s overhead that’s required just to be able to do that and to do that well. You need somebody to be able to pick up the phone and be able to understand who they’re talking to. And you don’t want to get too different so that people don’t know how to plug into you. So we came up with critical functions that we had to have to operate inside the Department of Defense.
For example, if you’re going to be a member of the Joint Chiefs, you have to have a three-star that can interact for you on your behalf with the other services. And so we stood up a three-star called the S3, so everybody understands that nomenclature inside the Pentagon. We have a hybrid approach where we have the S3 bit combined with some other functions, because we wanted to have a reduced leadership structure, so we made it the S2,3,6 and we call them the Chief Operating Officer to drive a different mindset for that position.
We’ve done the same thing on the resourcing side. And we’ve done the same thing for our human capital development where we have a hybrid approach. And then we also stood up a Chief Technology and Innovation Officer and made that a direct report to me as well. That’s the leadership team.
What’s the Role of the Space Force in Promoting Positive Norms of Behavior in Space?
Space is a warfighting domain just like air, land and sea. We do not want to get into a conflict that begins or extends into space. We want to deter that from happening. We are working to develop norms of behavior to address what is safe and professional behavior in space. We want to develop those by demonstrating good behavior on how we act. We’re very transparent, we share data broadly across the globe.
A lot of people talk about space deterrence. I just talk about deterrence — the calculus of imposing costs and denying benefits. All combatant commands have a deterrence role, U.S. Space Command does as well in the capabilities that we provide, help feed into that deterrence.
How Will You Bring in Talent from Commercial Companies?
We’ve developed a human capital plan that’s really innovative. We want to be able to bring people in from industry, laterally into the service. We want to be able to send people from the Space Force and have them go work at a company and come back. We want to do things differently. There are a lot of authorities that that we have that are underutilized; we want to use all of them.
Our first 10 months have been about building the processes to get people into the Space Force. On 20 December 2019, when the President signed the law, I was the first one. And then we got a command senior enlisted advisor, that was number two. Next, we got 86 cadets coming out of the Academy. That made 88. And then we held boards and who at the Air Force is going to apply to come in? We had ~ 9,000 applicants for 7,000 positions. Now we’re looking at doing the innovative pieces. This human capital plan will be the model for others going forward. We built the plan, we built the strategy, and now we’re focusing on implementing that.
How are You Tackling Classification?
Classification is an issue that we’re working through. Space has largely been in the classified realm. In my opinion it is overly classified. And we’re working hard to develop a strategy. If your goal is to deter conflict, you want to be able to message any potential adversary to be able to change their calculus. It’s kind of hard to do that when you can’t talk about things.
What is the Space Force Doing Differently in Innovation- With Commercial Partners and Internally?
First, one of the big things we’re doing is adopting digital engineering as our standard. And it’s more than just the digital engineering of the thing. It’s all the way from requirements, to acquisition, to developing the capability, to testing the capability, to operating the capability. We want to have that digital thread.
We’ve worked hard over the last couple years to expand our defense industrial base. I’m not saying that the partners that we have aren’t good. They provide great capabilities, but we want to expand that. The work we’re doing with what we call SpecOT is trying to get others involved.
We are looking to build a Space Systems Command that will have disruptive innovators sitting side by side with more traditional innovators. We think there’s room and value for all. If you look at the domain and where it’s headed, and where industry is headed, there are a lot of opportunities to come up with a hybrid type of architecture. Not just a one size fits all. And we think expanding that industrial base is going to be important to us.
We’re also looking at developing a relationship with industry that is closer than the relationship that we have today. That’s going to require some different rules for operating under. We’re really focusing on pushing decision-making down to the lowest level. I want folks managing their programs, not managing the Pentagon bureaucracy. We’re really trying to delegate down to the lower levels. And if we do this right that will be another model for others to emulate.
One of the things that you can’t do: You can’t go out and kill somebody for making a mistake. We want to be able to fail forward. And we want to be able to move at speed. I think you have to do that in a domain that’s so big and where operations happen so fast.
How Does the Space Force Approach Cybersecurity?
One of those threats on that spectrum of threats is a cyber threat. And so if you look at who we’re bringing into the space force, one of the career fields that we’re bringing in are cyber professionals. We need to understand the cyber terrain to be able to operate in this contested domain. We’ve actually integrated cyber professionals on our operations floors as part of our crews to be able to protect our ability to operate. We’ve really put a lot of focus on this over the last few years to harden ourselves from any kind of cyber threat. And it’s a constant, constant vigilance thing for us. And it’s something that we take very seriously.
What Did you Think of the Netflix Show About Space Force?
No matter what you think of the show, it shows the excitement and the imagination that is going across the country about space. I think it’s going pay dividends for us. Again, it’s not just about military space, it’s about all the different sectors of space.
When I was a little kid, I remember sitting on the living room floor in West Point, NY, where my dad was a teacher and watching man first walk on the moon. And then going to the dining room table and building Apollo models. I think that with what we’re seeing, there’s going to be this enthusiasm for space that is going to help our country. If you look across the board at schools, the schools that I have engaged with over the last few months, they’ve all told me that their interest and their applications for space types of engineering things have gone up. So I think there’s value there for our country.
How Receptive Are the Other Services to Reimagine and Fix Old Organizational Structures?
First of all, we’re just beginning, we’re just creating this. It’s probably a little early to say what have you built that others our now are emulating. For example, when we did the organization for Space Force, we collapsed two layers of command. I know there’s value to us already.
And if you look at the challenges that we face in the space domain today, they’re largely Big Data challenges. We track 20 or 30,000 objects in space and probably a half a million objects that we don’t track because they’re because of their size. A small portion of those are actually satellites. Though that number is growing significantly with these proliferated LEO constellations. We take 400 or so observations a day to make sure that nothing collides with other space objects, and we keep the domain safe. Those are all big data challenges. And so we’ve spent a lot of a lot of time building the data infrastructure.
How Can Students Get Involved in Space?
As we’re building the service, if anybody wants to do a research project, I can give you a laundry list of topics where we could really use your brain bytes to help us think through. And I think when you graduate, I think there are plenty of opportunities to get into the space business, including through commercial segments that traditionally haven’t been involved in the space business.
We’d love to have you in the Space Force. A lot of parents come up to me and say, “I wouldn’t want my son or daughter to join the military, but I want them to join the Space Force.” And we think there’s an opportunity to tap into a broader population. I’m excited for the opportunity to build a relationship with Stanford and other schools.
Read the entire transcript of General Raymond’s talk and watch the video below.
If you can’t see the video click here.
— Historically the U.S. treated space as a safe haven for the few exquisite, billion-dollar national assets that we owned (imaging, communications, navigation) that no one else could approach
- They became the backbone of how our DoD functions
— Space is now a contested domain
- Potential adversaries have targeted all our existing assets
— Space Force was started as a separate military service to own everything 60 miles above the earth
— It is trying to do things differently, building a lean and agile organization
- Flatter organization, with a COO and CTO
- Deeper partnerships with commercial providers
— Space Force has the excitement of NASA, but with the mission focus of keeping us safe and secure at home
— In an existing organization, when you when you have something disruptive and new almost everybody wants to strangle it in its crib
- General Raymond has managed to thread the needle to make this a service