Read: How exactly do you establish a Space Force?
A year ago, to deal with these challenges, the United States created its first new independent military branch in more than half a century. The U.S. Space Force, which I am privileged to lead, is a new kind of service. The Space Force headquarters at the Pentagon will have about 600 military and civilian members in a building that houses more than 20,000 Defense Department employees. Only by staying lean, agile, and tightly focused on our mission can we succeed in protecting the United States.
In our first year, we have had the chance to systematically design a 21st-century military branch. Our goal is to enhance American military power as space systems assume an ever-greater role in the missions of the armed forces. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard depend on space to navigate trackless deserts, wide oceans, and global airspace with certainty; to communicate anywhere, anytime, and in any threat condition; or to strike targets with precision and lethality.
Speed is a hallmark of our deliberately lean new service. We need to rapidly design, test, and employ the new technologies and innovative operating concepts we will require to compete, deter, and win. The branch’s creation came one year after the Pentagon crafted a new National Defense Strategy designed to pivot toward great-power competition and the sophisticated threats it brings, and away from the counterterrorism focus that has marked the past two decades.
We’ve removed several layers of command structure and bureaucracy, to move leaders closer to those on the front lines and shorten the pathways and timelines for innovative ideas to bubble up. This is especially important in establishing a culture for a service so heavily reliant on technology to deter or defeat adversaries.
The last new independent military branch before the Space Force—the U.S. Air Force—was formed just after World War II. That service’s unique culture, identity, and focus allowed its leadership to envision and develop crucial technologies, including stealth, smart weapons and precise global navigation.
In his book A Fiery Peace in a Cold War, the journalist Neil Sheehan chronicled the efforts of one such visionary, Air Force Brigadier General Bernard Schriever, perhaps the most important general that few Americans have ever heard of. Employing a lean, focused team, Schriever helped the U.S. military race ahead of the Soviet Union in the 1950s, developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and reconnaissance satellites, opening the door for space exploration and preserving peace for generations.
Read: The U.S. Space Force is no joke
In the years since, many have advocated for the creation of a separate military space service. Creating the U.S. Space Force before a national-security crisis compelled its formation gives the nation’s newest military branch the time and breathing room it needs to organize quickly but methodically.