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A Sustainable Model to Ensure a Unique Joint Culture for the US Space Force

June 1, 2020 | By apellegrino

A Sustainable Model to Ensure a Unique Joint Culture for the US Space Force

By Joe Mroszczyk

Space Force: A New Service for Warfighting Domain Requirements The United States Space Force (USSF) was established as the newest branch of the Armed Services in December 2019. The new service was established within the Department of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is within the Department of the Navy. USSF emerged based on the identified need for a service solely focused on space. In the face of growing threats to space capabilities the USSF is meant to prevent any further loss in the US competitive advantage. The USSF will be the lead organization for the Department of Defense (DoD) to organize, train, and equip space forces for warfighting in the space domain.

Why Culture? Despite the establishment and appointment of the Chief of Space Operations to lead the service as it develops toward an initial operational status, there remain several unanswered questions about the organization’s future. One key goal according to Gen. Goldfein, United States Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff, includes the development of, “its own unique space culture.” The challenge of creating a unique and independent culture is compounded by retaining the USSF within the Department of the Air Force in the short term. The initial culture of the USSF will inherently be that of the USAF. This will be compounded by the fact that the majority of personnel for the USSF will be former Airmen. There are multiple ideas for addressing this challenge; unfortunately, none of them ensure a Joint, sustainable, and unique culture while explaining how the new service culture will be developed. In order to truly achieve this, each of the other services must contribute in various ways on a continuous basis.

Some recommendations have included administrative solutions like separate chains of command, different uniforms, and naming conventions for ranks and units. While these artifacts will over time be associated with the culture of the service, the public attention on them has drawn a great deal of confusion and mockery. While the name we call a USSF member is important and must resonate with the culture (‘Sentinels’ gets my vote), artifacts fail to push on the drivers of military culture that create the identity of a service. 

Culture is developed over time through the integration of shared experiences, values, and formative training for the members of a group. Each Service, the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have developed a culture over time. Their cultural identities have adjusted through necessary adaptations to their leadership and training based on the mission and threats faced. The culture of the Service will drive the way it integrates and interacts with the rest of the Joint force while accomplishing its core mission.

Why Joint? While the USSF will have a unique space domain focused aspect of their mission, no other service has in its call to arms a responsibility to the rest of the Joint force. According to the Space Force website, “Over time, the Department of Defense (DOD) vision is to consolidate space missions from across the Armed Forces into the USSF, as appropriate and consistent with law.” Therein lies the rub. Space capabilities are inherent in each of the services, enabling globally integrated and geographically dispersed operations for the Joint force.

The mission of the USSF includes delivering space capabilities to the Joint force; its culture must enable appreciation of how space contributes to the success of each of the services it will support. Delivering space capabilities in support of operations where people fight and live must remain primary in the minds of USSF members. The delivery of timely and superior space capabilities will have a measure of success paid in the lives of Service members on the land, in the air, and sea.

According to Mr. Stephen Kitay, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, “Not every space-related service member in the military will be going into the Space Force. For instance, soldiers in Functional Area 40, who directly support Army operations, will stay soldiers. But troops who work on “global space operations” will move to the Space Force”.

In order to consolidate capabilities into the USSF, the supporting aspects of doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policies (DOTMLPF-P) for each must be addressed.

Assuming the position expressed by Mr. Kitay remains consistent and each of the services are able to retain the space capabilities and personnel necessary to leverage space for their requirements, a balance must be struck.

The two most difficult and critical aspects of DOTMLPF-P that impact culture and provision of capabilities are the training, and leadership and education for those personnel providing the capability or conducting the mission. So far in the debate, most of the focus has been on the units and capabilities that should transfer. Studies have been conducted and are underway to determine which capabilities and organizations should transfer from the other services into the USSF. Very little has been published on the study of the DOTMLPF-P aspects required to develop and sustain those organizations.

How to make it work? The best method to ensure appreciation for the DOTMLPF-P considerations for other service requirements while achieving the desired culture unique to USSF is to develop a continuous cross-service accessions model. A cross-service model would enable a modest portion of the USSF to be comprised of service members from each service. The core element of the USSF should still be composed of those members who begin their military career there. This will ensure the evolution of operations in the space domain are considered with primacy over time to ensure its defense. A cross-service model that follows the successful Army FA40, space operations officer model would address not only cultural concerns, but reduce the cost and overhead required to establish a new recruitment, training, and leadership and education path within the USSF for those capabilities transferred from other services.

A successful model In the Army’s Functional Area (FA) 40 model, Soldiers are developed in their basic branches (field artillery, infantry, armor, signal, engineers, etc.) and transition to become an FA40 after they serve at least a few years to contribute and learn their craft. The transition to becoming an FA40 includes the space operations officer qualification course to ensure the FA40 understands Army space capabilities and is familiar with all aspects of space operations. The FA40 is the space expert at every level of the Army who helps integrate the space capabilities necessary to accomplish the mission. A key to the FA40’s successful integration is the foundation built in their basic branch. The FA40 understands the need for an artillery or infantry unit to use satellite communications or position, navigation, and timing because they have used those capabilities in their basic branch. As a space expert, the FA40 also understands the vulnerabilities and opportunities those and other service space capabilities provide across the Joint functions.

The FA40 model also provides an added benefit of a more mature career field due to the initial service requirement. As a retention tool, a Soldier accepted into the FA40 career field is required to serve and additional service obligation. As an additional recruitment tool recognizing the importance of space, the United States Military Academy has recently established a program for space science majors and minors. Cadets are able to sign contracts through the Assured Functional Area Transfer program ensuring that after their initial term of service in a basic branch, they are guaranteed acceptance as an FA40.

Similarly, for the Army’s Satellite Control (SATCON) mission with the Wideband Satellite Operations Centers (WSOCs), Soldiers assigned to the 53rd SATCON battalion are trained initially like all satellite communications specialists in the Army. Soldiers are recruited, attend basic training, advanced individual training for satellite communications, and then require specialized training for the SATCON mission with certification on the job. It is not until they arrive at their unit that they fall within the space community, controlling the communications payload on communications satellites in support of the Joint force.

For each model, the space community within the Army is not responsible to pay for the initial investment in those personnel, or the DOTMLPF-P aspects of getting them to the point of being trained for space operations.

The model adapted for inter-service success

The USSF could continue to leverage the inter-service model as they have already successfully demonstrated with the first class of cadets from the USAF academy. Rather than developing their own complete recruitment and accessions DOTMLPF-P system, the DoD should establish target quotas from each of the services to contribute trained and ready personnel for a portion of the USSF overall end-strength.

For example, if the Army were to transfer the mission / SATCON capabilities including the 53rd SATCON battalion, USSF could expect a number of Army communicators each year. The provided Soldier would be ready for the specialized training necessary following inter-service transfer from Army to USSF.

Similarly, Navy could be called on for some portion of their acquisition force to come join the USSF to ensure Navy user requirements are considered and better understood early in the capability development process. As the USSF attempts to improve their acquisition practices, drawing on trained personnel from each of the services can also bring the best practices and ideas from each to support the Joint force. There are unique aspects to providing space capabilities to dis-mounted and mounted Soldiers compared to Sailors out in deep water, or fast-movers delivering high ordinance to necessary targets. The requirements for power, signal reception, and interoperability with other service specific equipment require understanding those aspects for the particular mission sets.

The DoD could establish a similar tool to the Army’s Assured Functional Area Transfer with each of the services. Under this model, recruits or cadets would sign contracts ensuring their transfer into the USSF after their 3-4 year mark in service with an additional service obligation to be served in the USSF. This would enable recruitment and retention tools with benefits for both the USSF and the initial service.

Additional benefits

DOTMLPF-P considerations such as costs for recruiting stations, service academies, school training, and acquisition workforce development are duplicative in nature; none of those have to be solely shouldered by the Department of the Air Force. If the USSF will leverage 75 percent of the administrative support from the USAF, why not reduce the development of the other 25 percent by providing some small portion from the other services?

The ability to develop Joint training pipelines, identifying Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen who will transfer to USSF upon completion of at least their first two years of service, may provide additional incentive to attract talent in each of the services. Additionally, an approach that enables and encourages service members of all ranks to transfer to the USSF may help with force management in a competitive talent pool. For the FA40 community, officers have successfully transitioned from their basic branches to become an FA40 as captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels. This brings a varied level of culture and experiences from their parent branch, or service in this case.

Numerous times, USAF leaders have acknowledged the prowess of Army and Navy Joint planning expertise. USSF needs planners, acquisition professionals, administrative professionals, etc. who are Joint-smart space professionals, and space-smart Joint professionals. Those personnel do not require significant expertise in space operations to support the USSF’s organize, train, and equip mission. Each of the services have training and career development paths already in place to develop space-smart Joint professionals. The resources required to modestly increase the throughput for each to contribute to the USSF would be minor compared to establishing them from scratch.

The case against

The initial consolidation of capabilities from the other services will bring an injection of Joint culture and service appreciation. While this is true, the effects of this initial consolidation will be temporary and fade over time as those members from the other services exit the military. At best, the infusion of other service members will impact the culture for little more than a decade. The long term for the USSF as it establishes itself as separate from the USAF is when increased risk of space-for-space-sake focus will become an issue.

There is a case to be made for the establishment of liaisons between the services; the development of Joint billets reserved for service members from each of the services in key positions within the USSF would provide an injection of expertise. However, the temporary nature of the assignment and static positions does not provide the same type of influence in culture that an inter-service transfer would. Transitioning from a parent service to the USSF provides a unique type of loyalty and buy-in to the USSF while not sacrificing the experience and expertise gained from the originating service.

Supporters of a pure and separate service may argue USSF is focused on the space domain, requiring expertise without other service contributions who operate and train for operations in other domains. The danger here lies in a space-for-space-sake culture where the USSF loses sight of the purpose of space capabilities. From the outset of our space endeavors with the Army’s launch of Explorer 1, satellites have been launched to enable improved military operations on the earth.

Challenges in execution

In order to execute this without adding risk to the services, Congress will have to approve a modest top-line end strength and minor budget increase equivalent to the quota feeding the USSF. This concept should not be adopted if it introduces additional risk to the core mission of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or Air Force. If it costs the Army a battalion or a Navy crew, which would otherwise fight on the land or in the sea, then the risk is too great.

For those capabilities expected to be consolidated or removed from their current service and into the USSF, how does the losing service ensure the need previously filled by the formation or capability remains synchronized and relevant over time? The Army and Navy are the biggest users of space capabilities respectively, requiring global position navigation and timing and satellite communications for their missions. As the biggest users, the Army and Navy have a significant stake in ensuring the USSF is successful in providing capabilities synchronized with their modernization efforts. Even if this model is not followed, each of the services must ensure their equities are considered throughout the capability development process.


In order to reduce unnecessary overhead, and ensure a unique Joint culture focused on support to the Joint force, the USSF should leverage the infrastructure and accessions pipeline from the other services modeling after the Army’s successful space operations officer model. The method of developing target quotas for each service to contribute would have mutually beneficial results and account for DOTMLPF-P considerations not yet addressed in the plan for the USSF. DoD should seek Congressional approval in the next NDAA for the authorities necessary to establish additional end strength for each of the services to support this model. The USSF will be better prepared to achieve its mission of providing space capabilities to the Joint force through the continuous integration of members from each of the services without impacting its core focus of operations in the space domain.

**These viewpoints are entirely those of the author and in no way reflect the official position of the Department of Defense, US Army, or Asymmetric Warfare Group.

Author Bio:

Major Joe Mroszczyk is the President of the Army Space Professionals Association, National Capital Region Chapter. Joe is a former Field Artilleryman with effects coordination experience at the battalion task force level in Afghanistan. Following battery command in 2012, Joe transitioned to become a Functional Area 40, Space Operations Officer who has commanded a space detachment, served as an XO to the DCG and Aide-de-camp to the CG at the Army Service Component Command level. He recently served in the Headquarters, US Air Force in the Pentagon on the Principal DoD Space Advisor staff and Secretary of the Air Force for Space staff. Joe is currently serving in the US Army Asymmetric Warfare Group as the lead for operations in the information environment and Special Technical Operations Chief.