A debate within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) over the last several years has centered on how best to organize the U.S. military’s space activities. There was a dedicated Air Force Space Command (AFSC) between 1985 and 2002, but in 2002 space activities were moved to be part of the AF Strategic Command, which has primary responsibility for nuclear weapons. The Obama administration reviewed space policy in 2014 and concluded that it was “critical” to U.S. security to be able to identify threats in space and to counter any anti-satellite weapons from other countries. The Trump administration on August 29, 2019, reestablished the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) as the 11th combatant command in the U.S. military with operational control over U.S. space assets. This command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military.
As part of the ongoing debate, the Trump administration had also been advocating since 2018 for the establishment of a U.S. Space Force, which would be the sixth branch of the armed forces and would be the first new branch since the air force was created in 1947. The U. S. Space Force officially came into existence on December 20, 2019, when the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) guaranteeing its funding was signed into law. The Trump administration wanted the new Space Force to be separate and equal to the Army, Navy, and Air Force. However, the Congress made it part of the Air Force.
With its establishment, an important question is: What is the Space Force going to do? In response to this question, the leader of the new Space Force, General John Raymond, who was sworn in this year, stated: “We are elevating space commensurate with its importance to our national security and the security of our allies and partners.” The objective is to improve protection of U.S. satellites and other space assets, rather than to conduct combat in outer space. If there ever was a war in space, the USSPACECOM would be in charge of combat. The Pentagon expects that about 16,000 active duty and civilian personnel from the AF Space Command will join the Space Force.
The reception to the establishment of the new Space Force has been mixed. Some opponents cite the increase in administrative costs for this new branch. Proponents argue that the growing emphasis by the military on space requires thinking about not only what systems to acquire but how these systems should be deployed and used. This requires a full time staff of dedicated space technology experts, which will reduce fragmentation of such responsibility within the U.S. government.
Our speaker in March is eminently qualified to discuss the role of the new Space Force and security challenges in space to the U.S.
Brian Weeden is the Director of Program Planning for the Secure World Foundation (SWF) and has nearly two decades of professional experience in space operations and policy. In his SWF position, he directs strategic planning and research on space debris, global space situational awareness, space traffic management, protection of space assets, and space governance. He also organizes workshops on space security and stability.
His research and analysis have been featured in the NY Times, Washington Post, The Economist, The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, academic journals, presentations to the United Nations, and testimony before the U.S. Congress.
Prior to joining SWF, Weeden served nine years on active duty as an officer in the USAF working in space and intercontinental ballistic missile operations.
Weeden received a B.S. in electrical engineering from Clarkson University, a M.S. in space studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Ph.D. in public policy and public administration from George Washington University.
6:00 Cocktails 6:45 Dinner 7:45 Address and Discussion
Save the Date: April 9, 2020: Henri J. Barkey, Professor, Lehigh University, “Turkey and the Future of the Kurds”