AFA: Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), both oft-criticized and widely admired builder of America’s military satellites and missiles, will become part of a defense-wide Space Development Agency boasting “extraordinary authorities to move quickly and efficiently,” according to the Air Force plan for a Space Force.
The other vital nugget in the 16-page memo from the office of Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is that the new Space Force and Space Command will cost an estimated $3.32 billion their first year, rising to $12.92 billion over the first five-year FYDP.
Here’s how SMC will get those extraordinary authorities. First, it will be moved, along with “elements of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and elements of Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command,” to the new Space Development Agency. The SDA will essentially be the recently established Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, “already given special authorities and exemptions by Congress to rapidly develop space capabilities.”
In an intriguing effort to once again closely tie the Intelligence Community to space, the plan recommends that the next director of the National Reconnaissance Office “serve simultaneously as” director of the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, establishing unity of command for these organizations.” This unification of black and white space has often been pursued, often vilified and up until now, has never happened.
(Back in 2001, Pete Teets served as both Air Force undersecretary and NRO director. Four years later that was undone. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson argued in 2005, while she was chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on tactical and technical intelligence, that Teets didn’t have enough time to focus on both white and black space.)
In an important signal to the Director of National Intelligence, the memo says “in no way” would the new setup “adversely affect the equities of the” DNI. “The processes to establish collection criotiies would remain,” it says.
The memo also says the SDA’s deputy should be “dual-hatted” and come from the operations staff (J3) of the new Space Command “to ensure coordination and alignment with the warfighter.”
How will this new Space Command and Space Force be cobbled together? “All space programs that conduct national security space or related activities (emphasis added), including all Department of Defense and U.S. government agencies, will realign to the Department of the Space Force,” the memo says. That mention of government agencies includes the Missile Defense Agency, NRO, DARPA, the Strategic Capabilities Office, NASA and NOAA, the Commerce Department‘s Space Traffic Management office and other entities.
The Sept. 14 memo from Wilson’s office also says the Pentagon should not create an assistant secretary for space, as required by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which it calls a detour from “the President’s policy position to establish a new military department.”
The bottom line for the Air Force? Its memo presents “the most cost effective approach to fix critical issues immediately and achieve the expeditious and comprehensive implementation of a separate and equal Department of the Space Force.”