Space Force Directive Producing 'Arm-Wrestling Contests' at the Pentagon

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan talks with airmen during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 19, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference today that putting together the Space Force “is a complicated process” and “there’s plenty of debate about the ‘how'” in trying to stand up the new branch by the Trump administration’s 2020 target date.


“We are united by the ‘why’: protecting our economy and deterring our adversaries, and focused on delivering more capability faster,” he said. “…Space Command will develop space war-fighting doctrine, tactics, technique and operations, and improve integration across combatant commanders and services. The Space Development Agency will support rapid product development and leverage the commercial space industry.”

A report released last month calls for the creation of the United States Space Command, the Space Operations Force, the Space Development Agency, and the United States Department of the Space Force. Vice President Mike Pence encouraged Congress to allocate $8 billion over the next five years to the new Defense branch.

Shanahan said a legislative proposal for the Space Force will be submitted in February.

“Its headquarters will be lean, with every possible resource devoted to enhancing our capabilities. Along the way, we will do no harm to existing missions, create no seams between the services, and remain laser-focused on our warfighters and the capabilities they need to win,” he said.


Responding to numerous questions about Space Force details not yet offered by the administration, Shanahan acknowledged that “over a very short period of time, it’s been thrust upon us to create and grow a new organization” and “we don’t really have something we can go and pull off of the shelf.”

“There’s a lot of really serious thinking and important trades to conduct,” he said. “…I mean, if there was a way to replicate, you know, the [Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office], put it on steroids, scale it, that would be, you know, in my mind, the Space Development Agency.”

“There is no groupthink in the Pentagon. So it’s not like we’ve all come together and said, ‘You know, this is really pretty straightforward. We’re just going to copy the old playbook here and we’ll write this legislative proposal and send a bill with it.’ We’re really wrestling with, you know, the how. If we drew a Venn diagram on what it is we want to accomplish, you know, everything lays on top of one another,” he continued. “…And we get into these arm-wrestling contests where there will be no separation between the fighter and the acquisition process. And then you have some people like me that are saying, ‘Well, I don’t know. Maybe we should have separation.’ You’ll see that’s kind of where the debate is.”


The deputy secretary said of the list of capabilities the Space Force is supposed to deliver, “I sleep with it under my pillow at night.”

“You know, it’s mission focus. We’re going to go do this the best way,” Shanahan said. “We’re going to find the best way, and that’ll come from the governance committee that we’ve put in place.”


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