What you need to know about changes at Air Force Space Command

Stephanie Meloni_65x85More big changes may beOrbital view on Earth from space coming to the Department of Defense outside of CYBERCOM’s anticipated elevation to its own Combatant Command.

Late last month, the House Armed Services Committee voted to move forward with their own version of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would create a new military branch—the “Space Corps.” This would create a sixth military branch that would be solely responsible for combat in space.

The Air Force has not been a fan of these proposed changes due to the increased bureaucracy it would create, but Congress argues that the Air Force, with its major focus on terrestrial flight, doesn’t have the bandwidth to give space its due attention. War in space is a relatively new area for the military to develop as an operational domain, and lawmakers are concerned that adversaries are outpacing the United States.

However, the Senate’s version of the FY18 NDAA doesn’t include the Space Corps, so there’s still a lot of work ahead. All parties involved recognize space as an increasingly important warfighting domain, but we may still be years off from seeing these changes take place as space warfighting matures.

Whatever the future holds, technology companies should pay attention to the NDAA and the development of space. The Air Force continues to prioritize space by increasing the amount of budget it dedicates to space capabilities year over year. The Air Force is asking for $7.7 billion for space programs in FY18, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

Recent creation of a new office within Air Force headquarters’ staff further points to dedicating resources to this territory. This office will be called the ‘A-11’, or ‘Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations Directorate’, and is expected to be operational in the next month.

Expect space, as it becomes part of military operations, to face many of the same challenges we’ve seen with cyberspace as it matured as a warfighting domain.

Speaking of cyberspace, one other change for Air Force Space Command that we may see more near term is the potential merge of the 24th and the 25th Air Forces. Currently, the 24th Air Force (AFCYBER) handles cyberspace operations for the Air Force; while the 25th manages intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

Both numbered Air Forces are already co-located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and there are talks that cybersecurity decision making will be transitioning out from Air Force Space Command to Air Combat Command, which the 25th reports up to. Bringing together cyber and intelligence capabilities could significantly help with the Air Force’s overall goal of multi-domain operations.

Both of these possible organizational changes continue to point to a need for better capabilities integration across warfighting domains and the entire DOD. Space and cyberspace are capabilities that currently cross responsibilities across all the Service branches. Restructuring could change that; so vendors need to stay on top of organizational changes and responsibility shifts. In the meantime, keep messaging pertinent to helping organizations break down information siloes and collaborate more effectively.

Now that you know one of the many IT trends at Air Force, get up to speed on what’s happening at Army by listening to Stephanie’s recent webinar on the Army’s IT modernization plan.

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