Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John Raymond, unveiled Nov. 9, 2020, a seminal document that aims to cement the new service’s purpose and identity while also outlining specific management principles for guiding the Space Force’s development, future and success.
Entitled “Chief of Space Operations’ Planning Guidance,” the 16-page formal guidance carries far more weight, insight and significance than its title suggests. Raymond released the document as the nation’s newest and smallest military service approaches its first anniversary on Dec. 20.
“I expect all uniformed and civilian space professionals, and USAF personnel assigned to USSF units and staffs, to read and begin implementing this guidance immediately,” Raymond says in the document. To underscore the importance of that order he repeats it – virtually word-for-word – elsewhere in the document.
Speaking to multiple audiences, some of whom are still unclear about the force’s purpose and plans, the document provides Raymond’s vision for a unity of effort and outlook as well as clear descriptions of his vision for the service’s attitude and operation. Raymond says in the document that achieving these elements will assure results across five core priorities. Those priorities are:
* Empower a Lean and Agile Service;
* Develop Joint Warfighters in World Class Teams;
* Deliver New Capabilities at Operationally Relevant Speeds;
* Expand Cooperation to Enhance Prosperity and Security, and;
* Create a Digital Service to Accelerate Innovation
“We will design and build a Space Force to meet three cornerstone responsibilities: preserve freedom of action, enable Joint lethality and effectiveness, and provide independent options – in, from, and to space,” Raymond says in the document. “We must build a force that allows civilian decision makers and Joint commanders to fully exploit the space domain to achieve national strategic objectives.”
He adds, “The Space Force has a mandate in national strategy, policy, and law to be both pathfinder and protector of America’s interests as a space-faring nation.”
Getting there, Raymond says, demands a different approach and attitude from what is often seen – and embraced – across the U.S. military.
“The process of designing and building a new Service requires productive disruption,” Raymond proclaims. “We cannot deliver the new capabilities the nation requires while remaining indistinguishable from the ways and means of our past. I expect commanders and program managers to accept moderate risk associated with innovation and experimentation to build an agile force that better ensures our long-term competitive advantage in space.”
Throughout the document, Raymond clearly communicates a call for bold action. “Failing to accept risk that accompanies innovation and experimentation will slow capability development and transfer risk to Joint warfighters,” he says. And later “…be bold, your leaders and your Nation expect it.”
Internally, Raymond says in the document what he has said often in public – the force needs to be small, agile and designed to make decisions fast and with a boost from data and information.
The force, he says, must be a “digital force” that constantly innovates, moves faster and improves. “In order to accelerate our Service transformation to a data driven ‘digital service,’ we have created a new Technology and Innovation Office (TIO),” Raymond says in the document.
Behaviors and practices as well as culture must change as well.
“The potential speed and scale of space warfare means a traditional ‘command by affirmation’ style, where a subordinate echelon assumes they are limited to narrowly prescribed authorities unless explicitly authorized by higher echelons, likely incurs a dangerous disadvantage.
“Therefore, I direct a default command style of ‘command by negation’ where subordinate echelons are expected to default to action except where a higher echelon has specifically reserved authority,” he writes in the document.
At the field command level, the focus is on a “flattened” force structure reducing the number of commands from “five echelons to three.” That approach, Raymond says, “reflects a mission focused force design.”
The on-the-ground effect is that the Space Operations Command (SpOC) is the primary force provider of space forces. Space Systems Command (SSC), meanwhile, will be responsible for developing, acquiring, and fielding effective and resilient space capabilities. Finally, Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) will educate and train space professionals and conduct operational test and evaluation of systems.
These changes and the Space Force’s success – and its existence – are critical to address a host of tangible and identifiable conditions in space that touch directly on the nation’s military and economic security and other national necessities, Raymond writes.
“The convergence of proliferating technology and competitive interests has forever re-defined space from a benign domain to one in which we anticipate all aspects of human endeavor – including warfare,” Raymond says in the document. “The return of peer, great power competitors has dramatically changed the global security environment and space is central to that change.”
If that description is too vague, Raymond adds focus.
“Both China and Russia continue to improve their space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and communications capabilities to support long-range kill chains that hold U.S. and allied terrestrial forces at risk,” Raymond writes, adding that the threat will only grow.
“In addition to space capabilities, both China and Russia have elevated information superiority and decision speed to be central tenants of their doctrine,” he says in the document.
These approaches as well as the different culture and training regime are necessary, Raymond asserts, because space is unlike any other contested area where the U.S. military operates.
The document closes with a call to action: “The strategic environment demands we act boldly now. … We do not have the luxury of delay for further analysis.”