* COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--It appears the nation will soon have a "unified" space command.
But "unity" wasn't exactly what those in the audience were hearing at this year's Space Symposium.
For those who have been living on a desert island for the past few years, the quick summary is this: the Defense Department has declared space a warfighting domain on par with sea, air, land and cyber.
While the rhetoric is new, the notion of space being contested has been around for longer than a decade. Russia and China, with their anti-satellite tests, maneuverable killer spacecraft, GPS-jamming and laser-dazzling got the Air Force to start rethinking how to defend its vulnerable and vital space assets. And rethinking, and rethinking and rethinking. It spent a solid 10 years writing up reports, analyses of alternatives and something it called "pathfinders" that heretofore haven't led to any new paths. It was the epitome of "paralysis by analysis."
Meanwhile, its traditional space acquisition programs suffered their usual delays and cost overruns.
It was early in the Trump administration when the words "space force" were first being bandied about. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and service space officials at the 2018 Space Symposium tried to get out ahead of the criticism of the Air Force's space acquisition system by announcing the Space and Missile Systems Center 2.0 initiative. The center would be "re-architected" to make it more agile and less bureaucratic. Part of that would be a new missile defense space-based infrared radar program to replace the relatively new system in orbit. This would prove the SMC's newfound agility as it would be developed within five years, she declared. The restructuring included a "chief architect."
Too late. By the summer, President Donald Trump in a blow to Air Force pride announced the creation of a separate but equal branch of the military, the space force--pending congressional approval. But as a step toward that, there would first be a unified Space Command, similar in stature to Special Operations Command. This reorganization would not require lawmaker approval.
And finally, the 2020 budget proposal seeks $150 million to stand up the Space Development Agency, which will report directly to Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin, and operate independently from the Air Force.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in a memo establishing the agency gave it wide-ranging powers...