Small Wars Journal

Building the Space Force: Where to Start

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Building the Space Force:  Where to Start

Morgan Smiley

As the time approaches when the United States Space Force becomes a reality, questions about what it will do, how it will be manned, etc, etc… continue.  Former Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, made clear her opposition to this new force.  Dr. Heather Wilson, current Secretary of the Air Force, seems somewhat supportive of such a concept, albeit in a lukewarm sort of way.  The arguments against this new force seem to stem from the fact that the U.S. Air Force is already doing much of what the proposed Space Force may end up doing.  As always, cost is also a concern.

Instead of creating a sixth service, I recommend radically reorganizing the U.S. Air Force (USAF), using its manpower and existing resources as the foundation for establishing the Space Force.  In doing so, I recommend not only consolidating the space personnel and assets of the other services but also stripping the USAF of its fighter platforms and turning those over to the U.S. Army (and re-establish the Army Air Corps) - allowing it to control and defend the airspace of the areas they’re fighting in and on, retiring most (perhaps all) of the heavy bomber fleet as “strategic bombing” seems a bit outdated since the introduction of the ballistic missile (see Robert Farley’s book “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force”) - not to mention the absurdity of using bombers as “close air support” platforms, and refocusing the remnants of the USAF on developing, launching, managing, and protecting space-based platforms, executing cyber warfare, ballistic missile defense, and strategic airlift…thus a new organization from an existing one.

In addition to updating an existing organization based on new technologies, new space-oriented threats (China, Russia), and the criticality of space-based assets to our national security, infrastructure, and modern way of life, a reorganization would likely be far cheaper than the “billions of dollars” the Deputy Secretary of Defense said a new, sixth service might cost.  No new service infrastructure, no new attendant staff and overhead, etc…just a refocus of the existing U.S. Air Force into the U.S. Space Force.  This may also be the opportunity to put the Gen McPeak USAF uniform into use (no cringing allowed).

Air dominance may not require an independent service, but space dominance does as much of our way of life is now tied to space-based assets.  The USAF is already heavily involved in space.  Let’s reorganize them so they can totally immerse themselves in that environment to protect our national interests and, perhaps, even save a little money in doing so.

About the Author(s)

Morgan Smiley is a retired US Army officer currently working in Saudi Arabia.



Fri, 08/24/2018 - 3:06pm

Based upon the title, I expected to oppose this submission. I was very pleasantly surprised. It would behoove the DoD and the American national security apparatus writ large to consider opportunities for improved efficiency and, as Secretary Mattis fondly calls it, "lethality". As Dr. Farley so rightly notes, the Air Force in particular was has been a confused force for decades, given its introduction on the basis of "massive bombardment" that ultimately proved to be a strategic dead end. Per a recent article in War on the Rocks focused upon the Marine Corps, America could stand to reevaluate and reassign its mission set along slightly more parochial lines to eliminate existing confusion over whose mission is whose. Perhaps JSOC's mission could fall to the Marine Corps, some Air Force assets could be redistributed to the other three services, and the Air Force could be restructured to focus upon several enduring mission sets - one of these being continued leadership in orbit.