To avoid ‘bureaucratic inertia’ with Space Force, DOD must ‘think differently’

Two Royal Netherlands Air Force space operators track simulated space assets at Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation in Suffolk, Va., Sept. 26, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Justin Armstrong)

Just in time for Christmas, President Trump gifted the nation with a new military service: the U.S. Space Force. But ensuring the new service doesn’t become just another bloated government bureaucracy will take a bit of work and planning, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy said.

“The pitfall we have to avoid is submitting to the bureaucratic inertia of the way we have always done things before,” Stephen L. Kitay said during a Feb. 6 breakfast hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in Washington. “This is our opportunity to think differently. It is not only our opportunity, it is our imperative to think differently.”

“Thinking differently” when it comes to the U.S. Space Force, Kitay said, involves embracing originality and joint principals, empowering those who work within the space community and focusing on increased partnerships.

An airman unveils the new U.S. Space Force seal at the Gordon Conference Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 30, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Van De Ha)

“The joint force in all domains is facing potential threats that challenge our freedom of operation across the strategic environment, making our ability to provide advanced space capabilities to the joint force all the more important,” Kitay said. “To respond effectively to these cross-domain and multi-domain challenges we must extend our culture of joint integration. And to do this well, we must ensure the Space Force is not simply part of an Air Force rebranded, but rather is able to leverage the best of all the services.”

Empowerment, Kitay said, involves ensuring Space Force personnel are not burdened with unnecessary bureaucracy.

The Falcon 9 Starlink rocket successfully lifts off at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Jan. 29, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacke)

“Our space professionals may be a relatively small group of about 15,000 people within the Department of Defense, but I can tell you that their power is mighty,” Kitay said. “As we set up our new organization, we have to ensure we are not creating unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and we have to ensure there is clear alignment of accountability and roles and responsibilities. As we empower, we have to provide clear guidance and enterprise alignment and prudent oversight to enable a culture of speed and innovation.”

Kitay also said thinking differently about the Space Force will mean the strengthening of relationships with multiple partners, including interagency colleagues, international allies and partners, and the private sector. He said he’s met with many of these partners.

“The message from all of our allies and partners that I’ve met with is clear and consistent,” he said. “They recognize the importance of space; they are concerned by the growing threats in the domain; and they are ready to work together. It’s fascinating and it opens up tremendous opportunities. We recognize that in any domain we never fight alone, and space must be no different.”

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