With the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military, members of the Air Force Reserve will continue to play an integral role in space operations and provide strategic depth for the Total Force.
"Today marks a landmark achievement as we officially inaugurate the newest branch of the military. This is a very big and important moment," President Donald Trump said as he signed into law Dec. 20 the $738 billion defense bill that established the Space Force.
The Space Force is the first new service branch in more than 60 years - the first since the U.S. Air Force spun off from the U.S. Army in 1947.
"There are grave threats to our national security," Trump said. "American superiority in space is absolutely vital. The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground."
"We are at the dawn of a new era for our nation's Armed Forces," added Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. "The establishment of the U.S. Space Force is a historic event and strategic imperative for our nation. Space has become so important to our way of life, our economy and our national security that we must be prepared as a nation to protect it from hostile actions. Our military services have created the world's best space capabilities. Now is the time for the U.S. Space Force to lead our nation in preparing for emerging threats in an evolving space environment. This new service will help ensure we are postured to deter aggression, defend our national interests and outpace potential adversaries."
Bringing the Space Force into reality has been a top priority for Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett since she assumed her new position in October.
"The launch of an independent U.S. Space Force propels us into a new era dedicated to protecting U.S. national interests and security in space," Barrett said. "We will work with (Department of Defense) leaders, Congress, our joint military teammates, industry and our national security partners as we establish the Space Force to ensure continued American leadership in space."
"What an opportunity to be here at the creation of this new service," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. "Now we must get to work building a service focused on space operations, created on a foundation of trust and confidence and with its own unique space culture. I am honored to be part of this historic moment and eager to work with my teammate and fellow joint chief, the chief of space operations."
While only Congress can establish a Space Guard and Space Reserve as new reserve components of the armed forces, the Air Force Reserve remains critical to the space mission and stands ready to support the newest branch of service.
"While there are still details we need to work through, the Air Force Reserve is 100% committed to actively support this branch of the military," said Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command.
"It certainly is an exciting time to be an Airman and to be a space operator," said Col. Darren Buck, deputy director of Air, Space and Information Operations at AFRC headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Buck is one of three operations deputies at the headquarters, attesting to the full spectrum of operational missions in AFRC's multi-domain portfolio, spanning combat air forces, mobility air forces and space.
A career space operations professional, he is the senior space operator on the HQ staff and the AFRC space operations career field manager.
"Specific future Reserve structures and relationships remain to-be-determined, but our Air Force Reserve members remain vital to the space mission," he said. "At any given moment, on any given day, our members comprise 15-25%, and oftentimes more, of the overall crew force providing combat power and enabling capabilities from space. We're in the mission. Our mission will continue. And AFRC is investing in these Airmen and the mission for the future."
The Space Force will initially be comprised of active-component members and civilian personnel who are conducting and supporting space operations today as part of Air Force Space Command, which has now been re-designated as the U.S. Space Force.
Air Force Reserve units will be aligned to the U.S. Space Force as directed by the Secretary of the Air Force. The Department of the Air Force will provide to the Congressional defense committees a total force management plan in support of the U.S. Space Force no later than 90 days after the establishment of the USSF.
Air Force Reservists currently engaged in space missions for the Air Force will remain in their current status within the Air Force Reserve, providing critical expertise and capabilities to space missions for both the Air and Space Forces. This includes Reservists currently integrated with active-component organizations as well as associated space units, which will remain under AFRC in accordance with current organizational structures.
The Defense Department is currently executing a five-phase, conditions-based campaign that serves as a roadmap to lead the Space Force to full operational capability, tentatively set for 2024. This transition timeline was designed to ensure the Space Force has enough time to develop policies and procedures, build organizations and assign people prior to assuming full responsibility for critical missions as a separate armed service.
By design, the Space Force will be agile, lean and mission focused. It will minimize bureaucratic overhead and maximize focus on operations, intelligence and fielding of advanced capabilities.
In addition, the plan is for the Space Force to leverage the Air Force for more than 75% of its enabling functions to reduce cost and avoid duplication. This will include capabilities ranging from logistics, base operating support, civilian personnel management, business systems, information technology support and audit agencies.
"Today, we have more than 1,500 integrated Air Force Reserve space professionals and supporting staff in 11 associated units throughout Air Combat Command and Air Force Space Command," Scobee said. "Our Reserve Citizen Airmen provide direct, in-garrison support to combatant commander requirements as space, cyber and ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) operators. These Reserve Citizen Airmen have years of military space experience combined with extensive civilian industry experience in the space mission. The Air Force Reserve is all-in on supporting the new U.S. Space Force."
For more information on the U.S. Space Force, visit www.ussf.mil.
(Some information for this article was taken from Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs news articles.)