Navy to Transfer 13 Satellites to Space Force

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday speaks to 1st Class midshipmen
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday speaks to 1st Class midshipmen during his visit to the U.S. Naval Academy, Apr. 19, 2021. (Tommy Brophy/U.S. Navy)

The Navy plans to transfer operations of its 13 satellites to U.S. Space Force but will retain the portions of its research labs that focus on space, Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday said Tuesday.

In a virtual forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Gilday said the transfer of satellite operations will be seamless because both the Navy and Space Force are components of Space Command.

But a "decision has been made" for the Navy to retain its space-related work at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, or NRL, he said.

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Space research offices within NRL include the Space Science Division and the Naval Center for Space Technology.

"The decision has been made to maintain our Navy capability within those labs and keep it in the Navy for the sole reason that ... in a Navy research lab, there's a lot of cross-cutting work that goes on across a number of different disciplines," Gilday said.

He added that the Navy is developing memorandums of agreement that give the Space Force more say in the work being conducted in the labs without "upsetting the workforce or command and control."

The Space Force is expected to grow from 2,400 active-duty service members to 6,400 by the end of the year, according to Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond.

The new military branch was created in December 2019 in the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The change moved roughly 16,000 active-duty and civilian personnel on a temporary basis from what was formerly known as Air Force Space Command to the Space Force.

For the past year, the new service has worked to identify appropriate personnel from across the Air Force and other services to become Space Force members.

Gilday said he and Raymond have a "handshake agreement" to transfer the first Navy officers to the Space Force in the coming months, many drawn from a cadre who work space issues.

Raymond told Military Times in February that he expected at least 34 soldiers and sailors to move to the Space Force this year, with hundreds more transferring next year. He added that the service members would not be forced to transition.

Gilday said change nearly always is accompanied by friction, but added that he has not seen it with regard to the creation and manning of the Space Force.

"All the services need to help grow the Space Force," he said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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