Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said the new Space Force will draw from a limited supply of space professionals but declined to commit to a Space National Guard helping to bolster the first new military branch in more than 70 years.
Barrett spoke about space and the fledgling Space Force during breakfast hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in Washington, D.C., today.
She outlined a vision for the new force and discussed how it is being constructed. Barrett said space is “ubiquitous in today’s society and in our modern military,” but said the skilled required for the domain are in short supply and high demand.
“There isn’t a deep pool of talent on the space side,” she said. That will create competition for talent with the civilian sector and require the Space Force to build its own capability through training and developing an atmosphere that will look very different from today’s military.
“We know in today’s world Stephen Hawking would not qualify to be part of the U.S. military,” Barrett said. “But maybe, just maybe some of that kind of capability is what we might be looking for in our space leadership.”
Guard leaders have advocated on behalf of a Space Guard, not for all 54 states and territories, but a smaller force focused on existing space missions in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York, Ohio and Guam.
The Guard’s space-related force is growing, with an estimated 1,100 airmen and 300 soldiers. A Space Guard would also create an avenue for the military to retain space talent even as service members leave for higher paying civilian jobs.
Barrett said the Guard and Reserve were important to the U.S. military, but stopped short of stating they would be part of the Space Force.
“We can’t do our job without the Guard and Reserve. The Guard and Reserve are key to everything the entire Defense Department does in each of the services,” she said. “We would anticipate a significant role for the Guard and Reserve, but we again are looking at building a system for the future and not just adopting how it’s been.”
That system must be a lean, agile and responsive service, Barrett said. And it will be built in a “totally new way.”
She said integrating the Guard was “not something we’re rushing to do” and instead said a design for a potential reserve component of the Space Force would not be unveiled until next year.
Guard leaders, including Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, have repeatedly said they believe a Space Guard should be established. Failing to do so would be a detriment to existing Guardsmen working space missions, they said.
Several members of Congress have also expressed their support for a Guard component to the new Space Force.
Barrett said there is great interest in being part of the Space Force and she said building talent was one of her top priorities for the new service.
“Space enables and underpins the elements of national power – economic, diplomatic, informational and military,” she said.
The new force, officially created late last year, would help protect American and allied interests in the space domain, provide early warning and missile defense and secure navigation, command and control and intelligence operations.
Far from the two-country space race of the Cold War, Barrett said the Space Force must operate in a more crowded space, with 100 countries operating in the domain, and against increasingly aggressive actors in Russia and China.
Ultimately, the Space Force will be prepared to defend and deter in space.
“Our mission isn’t dominance or isn’t control. We don’t pick fights. We aren’t the ones who are the aggressors,” she said. “But we aren’t prepared to serve as a victim either."