Count me among the disappointed that Netflix’s “Space Force” was granted a second season. It continues the pattern Netflix began with “House of Cards” of profiting from undermining confidence in our government and those who honorably serve. I am impressed with the accomplishments of the genuine United States Space Force as it approaches its second anniversary. They should restore your American pride. China sending a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile circling the globe in near earth orbit and then maneuvering toward its target should make it clear that the imperative to preserve leadership in space is nothing to joke about.
Securing our space capabilities is not just vital for our national defense, but also for enabling our economy and the functionality of our smart phones — instant communication, navigation, weather. As China’s recent test and as Russia’s recent satellite destruction affirms, the new high ground is space, and it is contested. We did not anticipate this. Heather Wilson, as Secretary of the Air Force, observed, “We built glass houses in a world without stones.” The Space Force was established to ensure a laser sharp focus on protecting satellites essential to our modern way of life and national security as we make our capabilities more distributed and resilient. We cannot deter future threats if our ability to sustain space superiority is questioned.
The Space Force is fortunate to have a leader of the highest caliber in Gen. Jay Raymond. Rather than the sitcom’s rivalry, Raymond’s partnership with the Chief of the Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Brown (and Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall) is strong. This enables Gen. Raymond to focus on strengthening those elements of the Space Force essential to its success, while continuing to rely on the Air Force for functions where being duplicative would not be additive.
The first year was devoted to inventing the new “purpose built” force, taking it from an idea to an operational reality. Reflecting Gen. Raymond’s effort to ensure the force is lean and agile, he established its structure with two fewer layers than the larger Air Force. He also charged it to be a digital service. He introduced an innovative talent strategy grounded in the “Guardian Ideal” to ensure a technologically advanced, diverse team
Gen. Raymond faces the vital task of establishing traditions and ideals to foster the esprit de corps that will inspire guardians to heroically persevere at the difficult tasks essential to securing our freedom. The Space Force is just beginning to establish its heritage that will serve it well, just as the Air Force draws inspiration from landing an aircraft every minute in the Berlin Airlift, the Marines from victory at Iwo Jima, the Navy from the Battle of Midway and the Army remembers Saratoga and Yorktown, memorialized with paintings in the rotunda of our Capitol.
New uniforms, logo and flag are steps toward building that heritage. So is introducing doctrine for achieving space superiority. But it will be decisive victories that will define the force. Actions like a young Space Force officer noticing an irregularity in the missile warning feed and immediately notifying forces at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq to avert casualties from an Iranian missile attack in January 2020 is a precursor of many more victories to come.
Threats we must prepare for include ground-based missiles, jamming of satellite signals, directed energy weapons, disruptive actions by other satellites and more. In the event that deterrence fails, Space Force took a step toward adding offensive capabilities with a jammer that can “interrupt enemy satellite communications and hinder enemy early warning systems.” To develop new capabilities, it is building its test skills. As the Space Force organizes, trains and equips guardians it is also building its relationship with the new Space Command that will direct space combat under Gen. James Dickinson.
Under Gen. Raymond, Space Force has used partnerships to extend its capabilities, including with other services as it welcomes soldiers, sailors and Marines as guardians and absorbs the wideband satellite communications from the Army and narrowband SATCOM operations from the Navy. He has embraced partnering with America’s innovative companies. As other nations follow suit in establishing space forces, Gen. Raymond has been encouraging collaboration. Partnerships have been set up with a select group of universities with strong space capabilities and robust ROTC units.
Wow — an impressive two years.
Here’s hoping that the Netflix series concludes in season two, but that with the United States Space Force being Semper Supra, always above, our democracy will “live long and prosper.”
Mark Kennedy is president emeritus of the University of Colorado. He represented Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007. He was recently appointed as an Air and Space Force Civic Leader, a program made of unpaid advisors and advocates who provide ideas and feedback to the Air Force Secretary, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Chief of Space Operations on key issues.
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