Taylor Dinerman (a journalist very knowledgeable about space and military matters) makes a great point at National Review (let’s not get sidetracked about NR, though…) about the need for the right leader at the helm of the new Space Corps. The first general in charge of the Space Corps (the Chief of Staff per the DoD proposal) will leave a lasting impression. It’s not just the first leader: Hap Arnold laid the groundwork for the USAF, but so have other leaders in its history. Curtis LeMay as CINC SAC and Chief of Staff shaped the culture for the Cold War, Bill Creech revitalized the fighter business, and (for better or worse) Merrill McPeak brought the Air Force out of the Cold War. Then Ron Fogleman (a man of great integrity) cleaned up some of the mess McPeak left. Still, the guy in charge at the beginning will have an out-sized impact on the culture.
What kind of general will the President select? He only realistically has a small number of generals to choose from. They should be Air Force space operations officers, and not so many of them put stars on*. If the broader Space Force concept was on order, Trump could consider an Army Air Defense Artillery officer with experience in national missile defense. A Navy officer could be selected if Navy space organizations were moving into the new service, but they’re not (at least not yet). Since Space Corps is only being sourced from the Air Force, a USAF space officer should be selected. The President should feel free to ‘deep select’ a guy with two or three stars, and promote him on the spot to the four-star Chief of Staff.
* I would search the biographies to get a feel for how many, but the site doesn’t have the search functions it used to have. I would like to zero in on active duty generals, and then search on ‘space’ but it doesn’t work that any any more.
As Dinerman also notes, the relationship between Space Corps and Air Force will be very different from that between the Marine Corps and the Navy. Marines need Navy ships to carry them across the sea and help them fight their way ashore. The Navy needs the Marines for some missions, to hold territory on land when needed: “…the seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and for the conduct of such land operations as may be essential to the prosecution of a naval campaign”. That’s why the US has a Marine Corps, not just an Army.
The Space Corps does not need the Air Force, except in that base support personnel will belong to the larger Service, and the Secretary of the Air Force will control both air and space budgets. The Air Force most definitely does need the capabilities (precision navigation and timing, communications, weather observation) provided by the Space Corps, as well as intelligence that starts with NRO satellites in the larger space community. And so do the other services, and so does US industry (try no GPS for a day). If the Space Corps is allowed to flourish, the US will preserve and improve on present space capabilities and the country will be more secure. If Space Corps cannot fight for control of the orbital space around Earth, an enemy will take away from us all those space capabilities that we rely on.
The right answer is (as I have said before) to separate Space into a completely independent service under its own secretary, but we’re not there yet politically. I hope we get there before China or Russia kicks us out of orbit in a way reminiscent of the movie Gravity.
On other topics:
More Air National Guard space units coming. Space National Guard will be a thing.
Somebody in the AF is thinking long-term about space.
Outgoing SECAF says space officers don’t think like warriors who fight in a contested domain. Maybe if the AF acted like the domain was contested (because it could be at any moment), and gave the space guys some weapons to shoot back, then this problem would solve itself. Or if the AF actually expected AF officers to know something about warfare in general, instead of just focusing on their narrow specialties and touching on warfare in PME, then this problem would already be solved. Officers who understand warfare (through self-study if nothing else) exist in every USAF career field, whether the USAF educated them or they educated themselves. Give the space operators weapons and a mission to use them, and leaders will emerge.
If there was one organization in the US focused on space dominance, maybe there would be a voice for a policy to stop this.
And here’s a guy who gets it, making points I hadn’t already made about why we need a Space Force