WASHINGTON: The Space Force is still working with the Pentagon to set up service components to be embedded in theater combatant commands — sorting out budget and staffing issues, as well as the rough administrative details involved with stationing personnel overseas, a high-level space Force, the official said on Thursday.
The current plan is to first build a Space Force component in the Indo-Pacific Command because “China is the evolving threat,” Lt. Gen. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber and nuclear operations, told Defense Writers Group. Next on the agenda is Central Command, then European Command.
But, he said, the formal creation of these commands “remains pending” and awaits decisions from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his staff.
“This is a decision of the Secretary of Defense. And those decisions aren’t made lightly,” said Saltzman, whose call sign is (predictably) Salty.
“We need to make sure we understand exactly what the implications are, the second and third order effects. Do we have the personal support? What about resources and budget?” he explained. “We have to align all of this because we don’t want to go so fast that we hang this organization and it can’t be effective once it’s in place. So we’re really just trying to make sure we’re doing the conscious planning to make sure it’s successful from day one because it’s that important.”
Additionally, he noted that for theater commandos headquartered abroad, establishing new military units requires working with regional allies, host countries, and the State Department — and all of those things “take time.”
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall last fall signed the Space Force plan to establish the component commands responsible for responding to operational combatant commanders’ requests for forces to conduct day-to-day missions, including drills and war planning. Service component officers also have an administrative role and are responsible for looking after Space Force Guardians assigned to far-flung theaters.
And until that’s done, deployed Wardens are technically assigned to resident Air Force components. Changing this is essential to ensure space power is integrated into combatant command planning, exercises and operations, Saltzman explained.
“We just think that space is so important now that we need a seat at that table, so the combat commander has a sub-commander that he can assign to be responsible for integrating all of these capabilities at the operational level,” he said .
At the moment, the Space Operations Command assigned to Space Command is the only surviving Space Force component command established in October 2020 and equip forces. These forces are then assigned to operational combatant commands, of which SPACECOM is one of 11.)
And even there, Saltzman said, the Space Force is still in the thick of dotted i’s and intersecting t’s.
“It’s a big part of what we do, we try a lot. And we’re still trying to figure out the exact organizational relationships and how it all works,” he said. “This is all work in progress.”
As Breaking Defense first reported, the relationship between Space Force and SPACECOM is complicated, with jurisdictions and responsibilities turning gray at times. This is because the US military has never in its history had both a combatant command and a military service both dedicated to the same single mission area.
Eventually, Saltzman added, Space Force would need to move forward to establish a component within Cyber Command as well. CYBERCOM, unlike the other service component commands, is more of a functional command than a geographic command (although SPACECOM is arguably a hybrid of the two types).
Function commands provide operations for specific missions; The Transport Command provides ground, sea and air logistics and transport support. Geographic Commands have “Areas of Responsibility” or AORs associated with a region; ie the AOR of SPACECOM starts at 100 kilometers altitude and theoretically extends to the end of the universe (if there is one).
“Right now we’re using the Air Force component for US Cyber Command as our link to our needs, our problems, etc. So we don’t have our own cyber component in US Cyber Command yet,” Saltzman explained. “I think that day will come; honestly, it’s too important. The service will have too many cyber responsibilities. We’re just not there yet.”