It's Official: President Trump Has Signed Space Force Into Existence

The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Fla.  (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
The Mobile Service Tower is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Fla. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

Roughly 16,000 active-duty and civilian personnel that make up Air Force Space Command are now assigned to the U.S. Space Force following President Donald Trump's signing of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Friday evening.

During the signing ceremony, Trump appointed Gen. Jay Raymond as the first Chief of Space Operations. Raymond, who also leads U.S. Space Command, will report to the secretary of the Air Force and sit as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Throughout the next 18 months, the U.S. Air Force will further identify the appropriate personnel to transfer branches and become U.S. Space Force service members.

"All airmen currently assigned to Air Force Space Command will now be assigned to U.S. Space Force (USSF)," the service outlined in a document Friday ahead of the NDAA enactment.

Within 60 days, the Air Force will reach out to uniformed airmen "to inform them whether their specialty code is organic to the Space Force, organic to the Air Force, or shared between Air Force and Space Forces," the document states.

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"Airmen will be provided options, depending on their specialty code, to volunteer to transfer to the USSF. Based on their preferences and Air Force and Space Force needs, airmen will be selected for Air or Space Force, and we will work to transfer those selected for the Space Force," it continues.

Those service members will retain their rank or grade and their pay remains the same, officials said.

"[The move] will not affect time-in-grade or retirement eligibility," the document says.

Air Force officials, discussing the move on background Friday, told reporters that Space Force cadre members will follow Air Force protocols when it comes to day-to-day activities, standards and requirements like physical training. But as personnel form their own Space Force culture, policies -- and someday, uniforms -- will be amended.

Potential service members may see a separate Space Force recruiting website down the line, but a separate service academy for space is not currently under consideration, an official said, adding the Defense Department will leverage current recruiting methods and commission officers from existing service academies, Reserve Officer Training Corps programs and officer candidate schools.

Raymond said there are now plans in motion to redesignate Air Force units with a space-only mission, and realign bases for the space mission.

Those bases are in various locations in Colorado, including Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base, as well as the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

For example, "Patrick Air Force Base" may be renamed "Patrick Space Base," or something to that effect, the general said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

While USSF will be headquartered in the Pentagon, some of those bases are also under consideration to house the Defense Department's newest unified combatant command, U.S. Space Command, which is responsible for planning and conducting space military operations. A large portion of SPACECOM's work is currently being conducted at Peterson, which was originally home to the now-defunct Air Force Space Command.

"There's still a lot of planning," Raymond said.

More information will be forthcoming on how troops may be called to support Space Force in a transferred or assigned capacity, according to the document.

For example, an airman who is "assigned" is a "person who performs work in support of a specific mission, in this case the U.S. Space Force; a 'transferred' individual in this situation is someone who has changed their enlistment or appointment as an officer from one particular branch of the Armed Forces to another," the document states.

Soldiers, sailors or Marines who support space operations and want to be a part of Space Force may request an interservice transfer. The service member's chain of command will make decisions "based on the member's ability to perform the new mission and the needs of both gaining and losing services," according to the document.

Alongside Raymond, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said while Pentagon and Air Force officials will be working efficiently to create the military's sixth service branch, it will still be done in phased approaches, especially considering that the full $72 million request was cut short by $32 million in the appropriations defense bill.

"It's less than what was requested, but we'll quite ably work with the amount that was appropriated," she said.

Congress mandated the newly established service would be required to use existing personnel, preventing the Pentagon from making new hires in the beginning to limit redundancy and bureaucratic bloat.

There is opportunity to amend the structure as planners move forward, Raymond said.

"We've looked at and we continue to look at the organizational constructs to build this force in a way that is consistent [with] the way we need to operate successfully," he said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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