Updated: Dec 24, 2019
On December 21st, 2019, President Trump officially launched the new Pentagon force focused on warfare in space – the US Space Force. This new military service, the first in more than 70 years, falls under the authority of the US Air Force.
To learn more about the move, Wikistrat conducted an interview with Dr. Bruce Wald, a Space expert, and a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat. Dr. Wald participated in the design of the first reconnaissance satellite and in the exploitation of its product as a young engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory. Twenty years later, he became director of the Laboratory’s space and command/control activities.
Q. Thank you, Dr. Bruce Wald, for joining us for today's interview on the new U.S Space Force. What will the mission of the Space Force be?
A. The Space Force will organize, train, and equip forces for space-related missions performed by Combatant Commanders.
Q. What are these space-related missions?
A. The space-related missions include:
Space Awareness: Maintaining knowledge of activities in space
Space Control: Maintaining the ability to use and operate in space and to deny, when necessary, the use of space by others
Space Support: Using space to support other military operations
Q. Why are these missions important?
A. US military operations are principally expeditionary, that is, conducted far from the continental United States, and therefore require the use of space for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, meteorology, and navigation, as well as for the exercise of command and control. Loss of these functions would degrade all expeditionary military capabilities.
Furthermore, US civil and commercial activities have become increasingly dependent on space for communications, navigation, and meteorology. Space Control offers the option to deny or degrade adversary’s use of space and thereby reduce that adversary’s military effectiveness.
Q. Is there a threat to US space capabilities?
A. Yes. Both China and Russia have the capability to destroy US space assets, and Iran and North Korea are seeking this capability. Numerous potential adversaries have, or are seeking, abilities to deny or degrade US space capabilities through cyber warfare.
Q. How will the creation of the Space Force help counter these threats?
A. The Space Force will provide an intellectual and fiscal focus that will lead to better and more robust space capabilities. When equipping space-related forces was an Air Force responsibility, these investments had to compete within the Air Force budget; now they will compete with the entire Defense Department budget. Tradeoffs between aircraft and space investments will be made outside of the Air Force.
Q. Are there risks attendant to the creation of the Space Force?
A. One risk is that a focus on operational capabilities in space could lead to the relative neglect of support to terrestrial military operations. After the Air Force was carved out of the Army, many in the Army felt that equipping for air support of ground operations had less priority than equipping for bombing and air combat missions. They felt that aircraft principally used in support of ground operations, such as the A10, was poorly supported and frequently proposed for cancellation. The Army responded by building its own “air force” of helicopter gunships. It would be a shame if the Space Force’s relative neglect of the Space Support mission motivated the other Services to seek alternative capabilities.