New Space Force Will Need Resources, Clear Definition of Warfighting Mission

For Release

March 13, 2020

To meet the goals of the U.S. Space Force most space activities in the Department of Defense should be moved into the new service, according to a new report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Moreover, it will be critical that the Space Force clearly define and clarify its space warfighting mission.

As the United States stands up the Space Force as a service within the Department of the Air Force, RAND was asked to assess which units to bring into the Space Force, analyze its career field sustainability and draw lessons from other defense organizations. The report focuses on effectiveness, efficiency, independence and sense of identity for the new service—the first created in the United States in 72 years.

The expectation for having a separate armed service for space is that it will create a champion within the U.S. armed forces to advocate for and develop new capabilities that can outpace current and projected military threats from space.

“Launching a Space Force offers the opportunity to increase U.S. military capability, particularly when the United States has to give more consideration to potential threats from other nations in space,” said lead author Michael Spirtas, a senior political scientist and associate director of RAND's International Security and Defense Policy Center.

Each of the four military service branches has functions that deal with space, such as Air Force units that deal with satellite operations and the U.S. Army's space brigade. The report says most space operational units and space acquisition organizations (including the Space Development Agency) should be moved into the Space Force, though decisions about transferring the Missile Defense Agency's space acquisition activities requires more in-depth analyses. The Space Force headquarters should include key functions that are essential to the independence and identity of the service, such as operational concepts and doctrine development; requirements development and advocacy; planning, programming, budgeting, and execution; and legislative liaisons and public affairs.

“The transfer of these functions will likely create new 'seams' between the Space Force and the other services and the organizations it supports,” said Yool Kim, an author of the report and senior engineer at RAND. “For example, some of these 'seams' could potentially slow operations in a kill chain that relies on sensors or communication assets in space to support kinetic attacks, reducing the capabilities of the joint force.”

The Space Force will need personnel with skills in space operations, space intelligence, space acquisition, mathematics, and other science, technology and engineering specialties. Although some Space Force career fields will be organic to the new service, many career fields will be manned by Air Force officers who are on assignment to the Space Force. Some Air Force career fields will need to develop a “space track” to ensure the additional training and development that will be necessary for the Air Force officers who will serve in the Space Force. The Space Force—with an initial estimated size of 16,000 personnel—will likely need to draw many of its general officers from the Air Force or other services.

Lack of a coherent doctrine of space warfighting would present a challenge to the Space Force's effectiveness in its early years and make it more difficult for the service to build a distinctive identity, the authors say. The small size of the Space Force relative to other services could also decrease its leverage in the defense community.

The report's recommendations include:

  • Define and clarify space warfighting missions.
  • Make sure the Space Force has its own resources and reaches out to educate the public on the nature and severity of space threats confronting the nation.
  • Find creative ways to manage career fields and develop senior leaders.
  • Work closely with other services and organizations to define and manage new relationships.
  • Establish a formal monitoring and evaluation process to adapt to changes in organizational priorities and external factors.

Other authors of the report, “A Separate Space: Creating a Military Service for Space,” are Frank Camm, Shirley Ross, Debra Knopman, Forrest Morgan, Sebastian Bae, M. Scott Bond, John Crown and Elaine Simmons.

The research was conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE, a division of RAND. PAF is the U.S. Air Force's federally funded research and development center for studies and analyses. PAF provides the Air Force with independent analyses of policy alternatives affecting the development, employment, combat readiness and support of current and future air, space and cyber forces.

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