In December, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 authorized the formation and funding of the U.S. Space Force, a sixth service brand that will be part of the Air Force the way the Marine Corps is part of the Navy. Its roster is drawn almost entirely from Air Force units and personnel—primarily Air Force Space Command—with various units from the other branches likely to be annexed in ones and twos. In the weeks since, the Space Force has had its first launch, and unveiled its official seal and a working uniform: the latter the same operational camouflage pattern used by the Army and Air Force. (This was mocked online—there are no trees in space har har har—but it was a smart fiscal move and should be applauded. Finally: a branch of the U.S. military that isn’t going to waste a fortune figuring out the color of nature, again.)
This month, job postings for the Space Force are beginning to proliferate. Though the new service branch is operating presently on a shoestring budget, and the Defense Department has floated five-year numbers like $500 million annually, it is hard to imagine that the branch will not grow mightily. Space is only going to grow more important in the next twenty years as the cost of access plummets, and there is no organization in human history better able to find funding than the Department of Defense.
What makes the Space Force a wild card is its total lack of a service culture. It’s been 73 years since a new branch was spun up—the Air Force, part of the massive defense reorganization in the National Security Act of 1947. But at its birth, the Air Force was already its own service in all but name, with a very distinct air power mentality and unique mission within the Army. No one had to ask themselves, “What will the Air Force do? What is its purpose?” Space Force is a different animal entirely. Everything has to be figured out, including its purpose. And while, yes, all of that subject matter expertise at Space Command is going to be laterally transferred, exactly zero percent of that expertise involves standing up a new branch of the military.
At the dawn of the Space Fore, every job will be interdependent on the others, and all must be stood up simultaneously. Program management and human resources and operations and acquisitions—you can’t have an independent branch without an independent workforce, doing an independent job, acquiring resources independently. If for no other reason, the jobs now being posted are exhilarating, because to work for the Space Force will be to make decisions that echo for a century. Here are ten job areas that the Space Force is now hiring into, and why they matter.
Program management is everything because everything is a program. When do you mobilize the Space Force? What are the budgetary guidelines for… anything? Program managers are responsible for every single process and procedure in war and peace, CONUS and OCONUS. How do you transfer from the Air Force to the Space Force? It’s still being worked out. And when you transfer over, you’ll need a new MOS (still being worked out), new service dress uniforms (still being worked out). There will be new forms (but they can’t be designated as “SF” because SF already has a meaning: “standard form”) for drawing a vehicle from the motor pool, for discipline, for ordering things, for… everything! Every service-specific ribbon needs to be designed, and every guideline for ribbon design needs writing. How often do Space Force members qualify at the rifle range? What are the physical fitness guidelines? (This stuff will also be worked out with training staff, below.) Everything is a program. All of the rules have to be written, and if the military loves anything at all, it’s rules.
Every job listed here will need to be hired. The people who hire the people listed here will need to be hired. How will the Space Force handle sexual harassment? What are the guidelines for promotion? What analytics will the branch use for measuring performance and productivity? The airmen and civilian staff presently detailed to the Space Force will ultimately have to be brought over permanently, or replaced. What are the retraining guidelines? What career fields are even available? Program managers will have to work all of this out.
Space Force IT
All of it. You’ll get a nosebleed just thinking about everything that’s going into this job area. How much will be taken from the Air Force versus rewriting it whole cloth? As mentioned previously, every job feeds into the other. The IT training policies will be written with IT. Supply tech school (or will it be advanced spaceman training?) training manuals will be written with quartermasters and program managers. Basic training—my goodness, basic training! Oh to be the first generation of Space Force drill sergeants! The burning desire to make Space Force “hardcore” will be overwhelming, because finally the Air Force has someone they can make fun of, and the new branch will want to stave that off. But all of it—the regulations for making your bunk, or rack, or bed—what will mattresses on bedframes be called? What sort of bedframes will they be? (Quartermasters and acquisitions people will help determine this!) It’s all interconnected. Everything has to be written, developed, cultivated.
Are members of the Space Force going to be called spacemen? Sailors? Who is going to write the Space Force song? During reveille and retreat, do you get out of your car and stand? (Installation commanders will also have influence on this.) Who goes first in receiving lines? Men or women? These are little things, but also enormous and will steer Space Force culture in ways hard to fathom. What will the Space Force Band play? How tall must you be to serve in the Space Force honor guard? You get the idea. The USSF will have a strong Air Force culture, but the Air Force has a strong Army culture. What happens when Army units are brought into the new branch? What happens when Navy units join the fray?
What will be the Space Force’s “Be all you can be” or “The few, the proud”? (A contracting agency would come up with the marketing, and an article later this month will discuss contractor opportunities with the Space Force.) Public affairs will sell the slogan and sell the service. They will make the hoorah (or will it be hooah? Nobody knows!) posters and recruiting material. What is the image of the ideal spaceman? (Spaceperson?) Is a spaceman a hammered piece of iron like a marine, or is a spaceman a clean-cut-get-money-for-college airman? What are the official Space Force policies for tweets? For Facebook posts? Who talks to the press and when? But beyond that, Space Force public affairs workers will have a unique importance relative to the other branches. They’re also going to be selling the Space Force as a new, exciting, uniquely efficient entity to Congress, because the bureaucracy must grow to survive.
It’s not often that supply is the sexy job on base (or will Space Force facilities be posts? Or something else? Space Force Stations? Nobody knows!) but every single sheet of letterhead, every pen, every new insignia mounted outside of the Space Force Station (I’m going to try to make that stick) from the Atlantic to the Pacific (or overseas—will the service have overseas facilities?) will need to be ordered, inventoried, managed. Every rifle (will spacemen carry rifles? Why? Pistols? AT4s?) and round, every boot and beret. (Will they wear berets? What color?) Every unique item with USSF painted in black stencil on the side will need to be managed.
The runaway defense budgets of the last few years are expected to stabilize, which means the Space Force is coming along at just the wrong time, cash-wise. In its infancy, especially, the new branch is cash poor and will need to prove itself. Moreover, if the parties in power change in 2021, the still-radioactive branch can expect some browbeating if budgets run amok. Accounting and public affairs are how Space Force will prosper. (Also operations, but your average congressperson doesn’t know a weather satellite from a GPS node.)
It is unbelievably wild to consider the command jobs at every level, and how astoundingly influential they will be. Everything from the atmosphere of basic training to the regulations that govern writing regulations will need to be drafted. A lot of this feeds to and from program managers, but a lot of it doesn’t. A lot of it will be unit specific, and those unit commanders and headquarters will have to interact constantly to maintain a cultural unity. Oh, did I mention unit commanders? Because you can bet everyone will want to put his or her stamp on the service. It’s how you get a Space Force Station named after you in 50 years’ time.
Herein is the heart of the Space Force. Presumably, the branch won’t be launching astronauts to fight star wars (though inevitably astronauts in the other branches—and particularly the Air Force—will migrate to the Space Force. Remember: most astronauts are military personnel, and the Space Force will be the ones launching them). What it will be doing is acquiring new technologies better and faster than the existing acquisition structure. If the branch fails at this, it fails. And there is some cool stuff about to be acquired.
Space Force Operations
All the work that goes into the standup of the Space Force is without getting into the service branch actually doing its job! If something goes down in the Space Force’s aegis—a cyberattack on the GPS constellation, or war breaks out and certain surveillance assets need to be mobilized—what, exactly, are the response plans? Who has final say? How does the Space Force interact with Army operators on the ground? Air Force jets deployed to respond? Operations and training will be like peanut butter and jelly here.
Do you work for the Space Force? Tell us about your job in the comments, because it’s hard to imagine a more thrilling place to be in the Defense community.