Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Space Separatism: Degree of Differentiation

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Space Separatism: Degree of Differentiation

Article excerpt

Space activities are critical to the Nation's technological advancement, scientific discovery, security, and economic growth.

-National Space Transportation Policy 21 November 2013

The importance of space is clearly articulated in the introduction of last year's US National Space Transportation Policy.1 However, the far-reaching benefits of space activity on society are diffi cult to comprehend, much less quantify. Also challenging to understand is the interaction between various governmental and nongovernmental agencies that provide for space activities. One of those organizations-a major stakeholder in and provider of space activities-is the Department of Defense (DOD).

Space is so important that the DOD recognizes it as one of five domains in which US forces operate (the other four are land, sea, air, and information).2 In 2001 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld designated the Department of the Air Force (DAF) the "Executive Agent for Space for the DOD."3 Given the national importance of space activities, the formation of a separate space force has been a topic of persistent discussion in academic and doctrinal circles ever since the United States first entered the space age. Proponents of a separate force argue that because space is an inherently unique domain, forces operating there should be organized, trained, equipped, and funded separately-as are air, land, and sea forces.4 Opponents highlight the interconnectedness of space activities in the other domains as primary justification for maintaining the status quo.5

Recognizing the complexity of the issue, for purposes of this article, we assume that the proponents are justified and that space is a unique domain, meriting organizational status as such. If we believe that space activities should be organized as a distinct and separate force, then the question becomes one of degree. How separate should a DOD space organization be? This article examines five proposed models presented in the literature regarding creation of a separate organization to manage space for the DOD (fig. 1). We examine them from four distinct perspectives: financial efficiency, operational effectiveness, logistics considerations, and policy considerations. Collectively, these perspectives allow for a robust comparison of the potential implications associated with each of the five proposed models.

Status Quo

Starting at the left end of the spectrum, we begin by briefly addressing the current model for space activities within the DOD. Although the DAF may be the DOD's executive agent for space, the Department of the Navy (DON) and the Department of the Army (DA) play a supporting role in effecting DOD space activities, broadly defined in enclosure 6 of DOD Directive (DODD) 5100.01, Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components.6 These functional activities are summarized in table 1. Collectively, the military departments provide space forces to US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) in support of national security objectives. This synopsis clearly delineates the supporting role of the DA and DON versus the operational role of the DAF in DOD space activities. Less apparent are the financial, operational, logistical, and policy implications of this current structure.

For fiscal year (FY) 2014, the DOD requested a total of $11.8 billion in support of space activities.7 Of this total, approximately $10.1 billion (86 percent) originated from the DAF.8 This amount is in line with historical levels wherein the DAF accounts for 85 percent of space-related DOD budget activity per FY.9 The division of budget resources among military departments is synchronous with the operational capability that they provide the DOD.

The DAF makes available bases, facilities, and space systems to carry out space operations in support of US combatant commanders and other government agencies. Air Force Space Command conducts operations including space lift and satellite launch for the DOD and other government agencies, as well as surveillance, missile warning, nuclear detection, position, navigation, timing, weather activities, and communications. …

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