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Opinion: US Space Power Should Be Consolidated Under Single, Unified Military Authority

US space capabilities

Opinion: US Space Power Should Be Consolidated Under Single, Unified Military Authority

A former Air Force official believes the U.S. military should avoid committing mistakes similar to those made by American forces during the first battle of Kasserine Pass in World War II.

During that battle, the U.S. struggled against the Axis powers due to a lack of air superiority brought about by the absence of a single, independent commander responsible for allocating air assets, and the subsuming of air assets to land commanders as auxiliary forces.

Matthew Donovan, who served as undersecretary of the Air Force during the Trump Administration, believes similar issues may arise in the 21st century in terms of space power. Efforts should therefore be made to allow the U.S. Space Force to serve its function of ensuring warfighting synergy through the consolidation of control of U.S. space power under a single authority, Donovan said in a column published by C4ISRNET.

Donovan sees two factors that may undermine such an objective.

First, the U.S. military’s priorities when it comes to allocating space assets is different from the priorities of the Intelligence Community. Whereas the military may want to use those assets to directly support warfighting efforts, the IC may want to deploy the same units in support of national strategic objectives.

According to Donovan, the tension between these two goals became apparent when the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force announced plans to develop small radar satellites that would track moving targets on the ground. SpaceNews reports that space-based surveillance had historically been overseen by the National Reconnaissance Office — a member of the IC — but Chief of Space Operation Gen. John Raymond saw tactical level intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as a “growth area” for the USSF.

The second issue involves persisting parochial service attitudes towards space power, reminiscent of World War II attitudes towards air power. By way of example, Donovan points to the U.S. Army’s plan to create its own network of low Earth orbit satellites meant to provide resilient position, navigation and timing, as well as reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. According to SpaceNews, the Army Futures Command, which oversees the effort, had already received authorization to proceed with prototyping and experimentation.

For Donovan, the Space Force has the proper authority to control such capabilities. He goes on to call on Congress to exercise its oversight and budgetary responsibilities to make sure the Space Force is able to function the way it was meant to.

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Category: Space

Tags: C4ISRNET Kasserine Pass space space power SpaceNews US forces US military US Space Command