By Charles Pope
Gen. Jay Raymond, Space Force chief of space operations, presented an ambitious blueprint Sept. 15, 2020, for cementing the nation’s superiority in space while also forcing change closer to home by slashing bureaucracy, refocusing training and instilling a culture across the Space Force that puts a premium on speed, technology and innovation for “this digital service.”
Noting “we are on the cusp of a tectonic shift in warfare,” Raymond said during his keynote address on the second day of the Air Force Association’s 2020 Air, Space & Cyber Conference that the law creating Space Force “gives us a huge opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper to build a service from the ground up.”
That opportunity, along with fresh thinking, he said, allows the Space Force to be “purpose built to compete, deter, win, and lead globally. And that is exactly what we are doing.”
At the same time, Raymond was direct in explaining why nine months ago the Space Force became the first new and independent branch of the military since 1947 and why the U.S. must maintain its advantage in space.
“Our adversaries are moving deliberately and quickly in order to reduce our advantage… I’m not confident that we can achieve victory, or even compete, in a modern conflict without space power,” he said. “And I am not willing to lose in order to learn.”
Those twin imperatives – the importance of space not just militarily but in everyday life and establishing a new model for creating and sustaining the Space Force – are central to his decisions and actions since the Space Force was born, Raymond said.
“In order to be ready for this conflict, we must be bold,” Raymond said. “We must innovate. We must move and think faster. And we must empower and leverage the outstanding talent we have in the Space Force. These imperatives are in the Space Force’s DNA. … I will accept moderate risk in order to innovate and experiment.”
The “warfighting architecture,” he said, requires a “new design.” The U.S. must “be able to meet the threat while reducing the first mover advantage.” The U.S. must also “have the ability to punch back. The unified command plan is clear; we must provide independent options in, through and from space to ensure freedom of action in all domains.”
Raymond offered examples for how that mindset translates in real terms.
Most important, he said, was publishing a space power doctrine capturing the Space Force’s “why” and “how.”
“We know this doctrine is not perfect but it lays the foundation for an intellectual dialogue on space. I encourage all space and air professionals to read it and throw your voice into the conversation,” Raymond told the AFA’s virtual audience numbering thousands of active duty air and space personnel, industry officials, congressional staffers and others.
The doctrine is important, he said, because operating in space and fighting if necessary, is vastly different from any other military activity. “If deterrence fails, a war that begins or extends into space will be fought over great distances at tremendous speeds, both posing great challenges.”
If that point was too vague, Raymond added detail.
“Direct ascent anti-satellite missiles can reach low earth orbit in minutes. Electronic attacks and directed energy weapons move at the speed of light, and on orbit capabilities move at speeds greater than 17,500 mph,” Raymond said. “To plan for warfare at these speeds and distances we must be lean, agile and fast.”
The need to be nimble is why Raymond highlighted efforts to suppress any move toward a bloated bureaucracy. The goal, he said, is “shortening the distance between decision makers and you, the experts conducting our mission.”
Since the Space Force was created “we have been in the business of slashing bureaucracy, delegating authority and enhancing accountability,” he said of a force that, when fully formed is expected to number about 14,000, a total force that is far smaller than any other service or the Coast Guard.
“Big organizations are slow and we must move at speed to outpace the threats we face,” he said.
Holding to that need, Raymond said a reorganization has removed “two echelons of command” and that the original estimate of 1,000 Space Force staff at the Pentagon has been trimmed to 600. Raymond explained that the planning process is guided by four overarching ideas: fostering unity of effort across the department, reducing duplication of effort, slashing costs, and “increasing our speed.”
Training, education and recruiting are the backbone of that effort, he said. Noting the high-tech nature of the work, Raymond said the Space Force will bring 50 software coders to the force by the end of the year and “we expect to grow this organic expertise in the years to come.”
The larger goal, he said, is “to increase the digital fluency of the entire force.”
Key to that effort is training.
“We have completely transformed our education and training from undergraduate to advanced follow-on courses, all to ensure our operators have the knowledge and skills to compete,” he said. “We’ve increased the rigor of courses and access to classified materials.”
“Our expectation is that all space force members will speak a second language: digital,” he said.
Taken together, Raymond suggested that the Space Force’s focus and the course it has charted are correct and a proper blend of old school approaches and novel thinking.
“If we get this right, we will be the envy of the other services because we are not tied to the past,” Raymond said.