I write this blog to fulfill two obligations: first, to correct an erroneous statement I made and repeated in various Skyway forums and platforms in the past week, and second, to clear the air and provide an accurate explanation of the newly created United States Space Force (USSF), and the various acquisition and contracting implications entailed in that development. I have engaged in several exchanges on LinkedIn, the Skyway Ask a Contracting Officer forum, and Skyway’s Government Contracting Network group on Facebook addressing questions about the Space Force, so I figured this would be a good topic for a blog article.
First, I had mistakenly described the new military branch as something different, namely a unified joint command that draws units and personnel from the existing services and operates as a functional major command under the Secretary of Defense. Had my statement been correct, the new military space organization would have resembled US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). However, as noted above, my statement was incorrect, and the US Space Force is, in fact, a new and separate branch of the military, joining the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, and US Coast Guard. However, it is organized under the Department of the Air Force, rather than under a new and unique military Department. So, in that regard, it most closely resembles the US Marine Corps, which is a separate military branch, but is an element of the Department of the Navy. Thus, the ultimate result is that the United States will field six military branches, five of them organized within Department of Defense and its subordinate Departments (Army, Navy and Air Force), and the sixth, the US Coast Guard, organized under the Department of Homeland Security.
The new branch sprang into being with a total headcount of approximately 16,000 people. This happened by carving the US Air Force Space Command away from its parent service and re-designating it as the US Space Force. President Trump made it official in December 2019 when he signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The initial creation establishes the headquarters, lays out the organization, and establishes an eighteen-month period during which details, specific plans and structural decisions will be finalized. These two websites explain the process and what the immediate future will look like:
Secondly, here are some thoughts on what the establishment of this new branch of the military means to businesses and enterprises operating in the GovCon sphere. As described in the www.military.com article listed above, the decisions to re-designate an existing Air Force structure, and then to install the new service under the existing Department of the Air Force, are designed to minimize expenses and maximize efficiency. Very few, if any, new positions will be created and filled, and infrastructure requirements, at least initially, will be minimal. These facts provide some general insights into the potential contracting environment that results. Basically, since there is very little new activity, and mostly just re-designation of existing structures and functions, there will probably be little impact in terms of business opportunities. The new organization is not truly new, and will not be doing anything new, so in general, everything will be status quo, just with different letterhead. Eventually, as the organization takes shape and mission requirements flesh out, there will be an expansion that will probably involve new opportunities. But, for the foreseeable future, business development within the US Space Force will be mostly a continuation of existing programs and services.