Former U.S. officials sign open letter in support of DoD’s Space Force proposal

Space

The letter says the Space Force will “develop military space culture and ethos.”

WASHINGTON — A group of 43 former Defense Department, Air Force and intelligence officials signed an open letter that expresses “strong support for establishing the U.S. Space Force.”

The letter was sent to news organizations on Sunday and is being distributed to congressional offices.

Martin Faga, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, was one of several organizers who recruited signatures. “We are excited that so many senior level people signed it,” including former Defense Secretary Bill Perry and other former officials who served on both Republican and Democratic administrations, Faga told SpaceNews. “Nobody in the Trump administration asked us to do this,” he said.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan oversaw the writing of the Space Force legislative proposal that was submitted to defense committees on Capitol Hill in late February. Shanahan and members of his staff have briefed congressional staffs on the proposal as committees prepare to start marking up the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act later this month.

Questions and comments by lawmakers in recent weeks suggest support for Space Force legislation is far from guaranteed. Members continue to raise concerns about the cost of a new service, and many still don’t understand why it’s needed or what specifically the Air Force is doing wrong in space that needs to be fixed. Some consider the Space Force a random idea of the Trump administration so the letter was meant to show that the proposal is supported by military and civilian space experts.

Faga acknowledged there is considerable skepticism on Capitol Hill about the need for a Space Force and even if the new branch is authorized, it is almost certain that Congress will modify the administration’s proposal. He said the problem with DoD’s proposal and how it has been communicated is that it’s too focused on the bureaucratic and organizational details and not on the larger question of why the United States should have a Space Force. “We’re trying to answer the question of ‘why.’” Faga said.

The letter says the U.S. Space Force will “develop military space culture and ethos; recruit, train, educate, promote, and retain scientists, engineers, and warriors with world-class space skills and talent; advocate for space requirements and resources; develop space doctrine and operational art; develop, field, and deliver advanced space capabilities; and steward resources to sustain America’s strategic advantage and preeminence in national security space activities.”

Faga said DoD has to do a better job answering basic questions that members of Congress have raised rather than getting bogged down in organizational charts. He would advise DoD to listen to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “He has asked some of the best questions at hearings,” Faga said. King has said he is not opposed to the Space Force but remains skeptical. “And he didn’t get great answers,” Faga said.

The letter says the establishment of a new military service for space is “necessary for putting America on a path to effectively deter conflict from beginning in or extending into space, and, if deterrence fails, to defeat hostile actions and protect our economic and national security interests in space.” The organization and management of space activities has been a long-running debate, the letter says. “The establishment of the U.S. Space Force as an independent armed service within the Department of the Air Force is a fiscally responsible approach to address the issue.”

The signatures on the letter, in addition to Faga’s, include:

William Perry, former Secretary of Defense
Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence
Mike McConnell, former Director of National Intelligence
Robert Walker, former member of Congress and chairman of the House Science Committee
Robert Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense
Edward “Pete” Aldridge, former Secretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office
Gen. Larry Welch (Ret.) former Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Gen. Ronald Fogleman (Ret.) former Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Adm. James Ellis Jr. (Ret.) former commander of U.S. Strategic Command
Duane Andrews, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence
Gen. Thomas Moorman Jr. (Ret.) former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
Gen. Lester Lyles (Ret.) former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
Gen. Lance Lord (Ret.) former commander of Air Force Space Command
Joan Dempsey, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community Management
Tidal McCoy, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs
Jeffrey Harris, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office
Keith Hall, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office
Sue Payton, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition
Charles Allen, former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection
Christopher Williams, former Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense
Henry  Cooper, former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization
Scott Large, former Director of the National Reconnaissance Office
Letitia Long, former Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Robert Cardillo, former Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Marc Berkowitz, former Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Space Policy Douglas Loverro, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy
Lt. Gen. Donald Cromer (Ret.) former Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Center
Vice Adm. David Frost (Ret.) former Deputy Commander of U.S. Space Command
Lt. Gen. Brian Arnold (Ret.) former Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center
Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel (Ret.) former Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center
Vice Adm. Robert Murrett (Ret.) former Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess (Ret.) former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Lt. Gen. Kevin McLaughlin (Ret.) former Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command
Gary Payton, former Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space
Richard McKinney, former Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space
Maj. Gen. Donald Hard (Ret.) former Director of Space Programs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition
Maj. Gen Howard Mitchell (Ret.) former National Security Space Architect
David Kier, former Deputy Director of the National Reconnaissance Office and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space
Brig. Gen. Sebastian Coglitore (Ret.) former Commander, 30th Space Wing
Col. Pamela Melroy (Ret.) former NASA astronaut
A. Thomas Young, chairman, Independent Assessment Panel on the Organization and Management of National Security Space (Allard Commission)

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