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Space: The Final Frontier … For Bureaucracy

(Source: www.forbes.com)

Yesterday, Vice President Pence announced the creation of the U.S. Space Force, a sixth military service, to be equal with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force (from which it will be mostly derived). DOD stated its intention that, “The space force will protect our economy through deterrence of malicious activities, ensure our space systems meet national security requirements and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.” The hope is that, by creating a dedicated organization, space will get more attention, funding, and priority among DOD missions. Whether this worthy intention will materialize can be argued, but one thing is certain: a space force will entail a lot more bureaucracy.

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According to DOD’s announcement, the Space Force (and that will be its name) will consist of four elements: a Space Development Agency to acquire systems, a Space Operations Force that provides the people, a space command that operates as one of the warfighting combatant commands, and a headquarters structure. Major elements of the first three will come from existing structures, although each will likely need some expansion to take on their new role. The focus here is on the management structure because that will be the most visible, being the element in Washington DC.

Although DOD has not released any details about what this management structure might be, estimates can be made based on existing structures. For example, the Space Force will likely be placed in the Department of the Air Force. Thus, the Department of the Air Force would have two services underneath it, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force, just as the Department of the Navy has two military services, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. The Department the Air Force staff would likely get a bit larger since it would have to adjudicate between two services, but the Space Force headquarters would need to be created basically from scratch. What would that look like?

One benchmark is the Marine Corps, currently the smallest of the four military services. The Marine Corps has a total of 60 generals, of whom about 25 are in Washington DC. The Space Force might get by with fewer, but not many fewer. Its headquarters will need two four-star generals (a Chief of Staff and Vice Chief), the same as the other services. To have fewer would mark it as inferior. Even the Coast Guard (which is much smaller than the Marine Corps but not part of the Department of Defense in peacetime) has two four-star officers in charge. In addition, the Space Force will need at least four 3-star generals to cover the major staff functions: personnel, installations, operations, programs/budget. To have less senior officers would put the Space Force at a bureaucratic disadvantage in interservice policy discussions. And three-star officers need two-star and one-star subordinates or their civilian equivalent. A few general officer billets might transfer from the Air Force or the other services, but the services will fight to retain each billet, so most of these will need to be new general officer billets, added to the 700 or so already in existence.

Marine Corps headquarters has a total of about 3,700—2,400 military and 1,300 civilians—, so Space Force would need a headquarters roughly the same size to cover all the functions of a military service. Although its headquarters might be a bit smaller, being the smallest service, even the National Guard, which has been given quasi-service status with its own four-star general on the Joint Chiefs, has a Washington staff of 2,000. A hundred or so billets might transfer to the Space Force from the other services, but most would need to be created.

So, the Space Force, whatever its other attributes (which may be very worthwhile), will represent a great opportunity for ambitious military officers and government civilians to move up in the federal bureaucracy and for energetic new graduates of the nation’s public policy schools to enter government service. But it is not clear that Washington needs more bureaucrats.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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