Military Capabilities

Update: Legislation likely to establish US Space Force no later than 2021

12 December 2019

The US Space Force would acquire and operate space assets such as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) protected communciations satellite constellation if the command becomes operational, as proposed in legislation. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

  • The defence policy bill would establish the US Space Force as a part of the US Air Force likely no later than 2021
  • This could benefit space contractors while hindering the independent services' space efforts

The United States would establish the US Space Force (USSF) in the model of the US Marine Corps (USMC) where it has its own chief of staff, but reports to a service secretary, no later than 2021 if authorisation legislation released on 9 December is signed into law.

The reconciled version of the House and Senate fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020) defence authorisation bills, known as the conference report, would direct Barbara Barrett, USAF secretary, to implement the USSF no later than 18 months after the bill is signed into law. That means the USSF will become operational by 2021 if this bill is signed into law by 30 June 2020.

The bill would designate the chief of space operations to serve as the USSF commander. That person would be appointed by the president and subject to Senate confirmation. The USSF would include military personnel of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) and other military personnel of the USAF as assigned to the USSF by the USAF secretary.

The legislation would designate the USSF commander as the chief of space operations (CSO), which, after one year, would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Bleddyn Bowen, an expert in space warfare at the University of Leicester, told Jane's on 10 December that he endorsed this move because he believes a geostrategic perspective based on space is needed to complement and enhance the geostrategic perspectives of the other JCS members.

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