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News | July 1, 2024

Combat-Ready – Embracing a new U.S. Space Force Generational Model

By Lt. Gen. David N. Miller, Jr. & Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Schiess

The current international order, which has provided decades of relative security and stability, is at risk from authoritarian regimes seeking to promote their own self-interests. An ambitious China and an overtly belligerent Russia are aggressively challenging established rules and norms upon which global security and stability depend. 
 
These security challenges have now extended into the space domain, with both regimes conducting destructive anti-satellite missile tests, striking their own satellites to demonstrate the ability to target U.S. and Allied satellites. These tests generated more than 4,000 pieces of debris, threatening human life and requiring on-orbit assets like the International Space Station to maneuver out of harm’s way.
 
Both nations are also developing and fielding on-orbit counter-space weapons and intelligence and surveillance systems to find, fix, track, and target U.S. forces. Moreover, China demonstrated a fractional orbital bombardment system in July 2021, and more recently to the alarm of many in the international community, Russia appears to be pursuing a nuclear anti-satellite capability in space.
 
It is these actions and ambitions that have transformed space into no less than a “warfighting domain.” The irresponsible behavior of Russia and China threatens not just our national security, but also the systems critical to a smooth functioning global economy and to everyday essentials such as GPS, satellite communications, arms control verification, and international banking.
 
That is why Congress, with bipartisan support, established the United States Space Force in 2019. Our purpose is straightforward: to provide a “space enabled combat edge in order to out-see, out-shoot, out-maneuver, and out-communicate” any adversary and to protect the Joint force from space-enabled attack. Our mission is to “Secure our Nation’s interests in, from, and to space!”
 
The U.S. remains the world’s leading spacepower, but that superiority is being challenged and threatened at an unrelenting pace. Rest assured, the Space Force is responding, evolving, and presenting combat-ready capabilities in, from, and to space that allow the U.S. and our Allies to deter and, if necessary, defeat any potential threat to U.S. space capabilities.
 
As senior leaders helping to formulate and lead our efforts in space, we know that prevailing in space demands excellence and innovation here on earth. To meet the demands of Great Power Competition, July 1 marks the implementation of the United States Space Force’s new readiness model delivering optimized and tailored mission readiness for combatant command and service-assigned missions. Our Space Force Generation (SPAFORGEN) model is an unprecedented improvement in how we organize, train, and equip our Guardians, as well as our Joint and Coalition teammates. This foundational approach builds on the successes of the past five years to field combat-credible space forces and better postures our Guardians and Airmen to defeat threats to the United States, our Allies, and our partners. 
 
Organizing to deter and win. SPAFORGEN organizes forces into combat squadrons and combat detachments with integrated mission planning; mission support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and cyber capabilities required to accomplish the mission. Combat forces increasingly leverage our network of installations as power-projection platforms to provide force protection and security, combat support maintenance and sustainment, mission enhancements, and engineering capability. As we employ combat squadrons as our tactical unit of action, we are deliberately and conscientiously prioritizing combat effectiveness over organizational efficiency. These combat squadrons will be committed to USSF service component commands around the globe to execute warfighting missions. For example, the Commander, U.S. Space Forces - Space will receive forces on behalf of U.S. Space Command and will have command and control of these forces to seamlessly execute the space warfighting mission powered by a constant flow of fully trained and ready forces who now have dedicated time to “prepare” and “ready” themselves for presentation as a “committed force” and as an integrated team.
 
Training to deter and win. Simultaneously, we are taking a fundamentally new approach to training our combat forces. SPAFORGEN integrates unit, mission area (e.g. Missile Warning and Tracking, Space Electromagnetic Warfare, Orbital Warfare, Space Domain Awareness), and integrated warfighting team training evolutions tailored to the latest threat intelligence and combatant commander needs and requirements. This building-block approach allows unprecedented reach, at speed, across USSF units to establish the mutually supporting relationships needed to pace any threat.  
 
Advanced training beyond weapon system procedural processes and day-to-day operations enables Guardians and Airmen to better understand the threat and the combat mission needs of their weapons systems, enabling innovative solutions to warfighting scenarios. Future investments in training and simulator development will increase training fidelity and span the continuum of conflict, providing our Guardians and Airmen a more realistic environment to refine or challenge our current tactics, techniques, and procedures.
 
Equipping to deter and win. Our Guardians and Airmen are committed to the safety, stability, and security of the space domain, and as such need the right tools to conduct their missions. To speed weapon system improvements and sustainment and to align responsibility, authorities, and resources under a single commander, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Space Operations designated the Commander of Space Operations Command as the executive agent for Weapon System Sustainment and activated Integrated Mission deltas to harness the power of our operations, ISR, cyber and sustainment professionals under a single chain of command. This important step will allow mission area commanders to better balance current and future risk for their weapon systems and aligns resources and accountability to drive readiness improvements. Further, we are also accelerating the removal of the historical security barriers to advanced capability development through common training and committing to a new security access baseline for planning and employment. Finally, we are increasing the resilience of our current space architectures through the proliferation of space systems and the fortification of our weapon system infrastructure, all while modernizing legacy systems to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
 
Committed to deter and win. After forces have been properly prepared and readied, the Space Force strategically allocates and assigns crews and their inherent capabilities to operational missions under combatant commanders. This mission assignment ensures these elements are effectively employed, maximizing their impact and support to the Joint and Combined force. Among the force elements offered by the Space Force are employed-in-place Combat Squadrons (CSqs), which are assigned to Combatant Commands like U.S. Space Command through the component field commands. Additionally, the Space Force provides deployable Combat Detachments (CDets) that can be allocated to other Combatant Commands, as needed. This flexible approach to readiness allows for Space service components to provide real-time feedback to their Combatant Commanders and to Space Operations Command so force offerings in the future can be tailored and, as directed, reallocated to effectively respond to evolving scenarios.
 
Our Guardians and Airmen have made remarkable advances and have evolved to meet the growing threat in the space domain in this first SPAFORGEN cycle. We will continue to enhance this model base on feedback and critical analysis from our most vital source for process improvement – the exceptional Guardians and Airmen who comprise the SPAFORGEN force elements.
 
The implementation of the new SPAFORGEN model is providing the framework to deliver synchronized, combat-focused Space Forces that combatant commanders demand to face growing threats to the Joint and Combined force. The increasing recklessness and irresponsible behavior of our competitors necessitates a critical shift in our thinking about generating and presenting combat-ready space power. 
 
As China and Russia continue to act aggressively in space, we will remain clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. By remaining flexible and putting our Space Force Guardians at the forefront of deterrence operating concepts, we will ensure the United Stated and our Allies continue to have unfettered access to and continued use of the space domain now and into the future.