Thursday, July 20, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part V


During his confirmation hearing to be reappointed Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff for another two years, Air Force General Paul Selva said “I do not believe now is the right time to have a discussion about developing a space force with all of the leadership and infrastructure that would go with it. It would also complicate the command and control of the space constellation, which is critical to our military operations.”

Sen. Ted Cruz asked Selva what else the military could do to better address space issues, Selva listed three in-progress reforms: the consolidation of the military’s command and control of space into The National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs, continue moving authorities to the Air Force secretary on acquisition for satellite constellations that are “critical to military defense” and giving the commander of Air Force Space Command the responsibility to manage the Pentagon’s entire constellation of satellites, as opposed to having various pieces managed through subcomponents, as well as elevating Air Force Space Command from a three-star to a four-star role. "I support allowing time to implement this reorganization and to evaluate its efficacy,” said Selva.

But the HASC representatives spearheading the Space Corps agenda have stated "The time for study is over: We must now act.” and have continued efforts to create a new Space Corps. On Tuesday HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry held a classified hearing and on Wednesday, a closed briefing by the Government Accountability Office on current problems with space operations. “The GAO report cited numerous failed or failing acquisition programs, with billions of dollars of cost overruns because the current acquisition system is so complicated that no one is in charge,” Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Jim Cooper said in a release.

The representatives were critical of the Air Force for Secretary Wilson's claim that the Space Corps would create unneeded bureaucracy offering that sixty Pentagon offices currently deal with space operations.

Military analyst Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Motherland considers that the setup of a separate Corps counter-productive as "Experience has shown that such an approach is ineffective. Such units can't operate on their own. They will certainly need a ground infrastructure, communication and guidance systems, as well as a logistics system, so they will use the systems of the Air Force." 

Murakhovsky explained that Russia used to have a separate unit of Space Troops which proved to be ineffective and in 2015 merged two branches of its armed forces, its Space Troops and Air Forces, into the Aerospace Forces and that China does not have a separate branch of Space Corps. Beijing was discussing the setup of a similar structure, but it has not been implemented so far. It's unknown whether China has abandoned or just postponed such plans.

Sources: Defence News, SPACEWAR.com, The Hill, The Washington Examiner

SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander speculation

The UNSC's suspected pick to replace General "Stomper" Santorno who is due to retire in August as SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander, one Corps General François Lecointre, was instead today appointed head of the french armed forces by President Macron. The the sudden resignation of Army General Pierre de Velliers Wednesday morning due to budget cuts and well publicised vocal disagreements with the President led to General Lecointre's unexpected appointment.

UNSC regulations on SPEARHEAD specify that the incoming Supreme Commander cannot again be from the same country's armed forces as the outgoing commander; therefore an officer from the United States armed forces cannot be appointed. Instead an officer must be selected from one of the other P5 countries of the UNSC, namely the United Kingdom, the french Republic, the Russian Federation or the People's Republic of China.

As the directors of UNETIDA and UNPASID were selected from the U.S. and the UK since the 1980's, the first Supreme Commander of SPEARHEAD was from the U.S. and the current Deputy Supreme Commander is from the UK and is expected to serve for another two years, it was widely speculated that the next Supreme Commander would be from france and General Lecointre's name as a rising star, significant UN Peacekeeping as well as previous UNETIDA experience made him a likely candidate.

As a Brigade General, Lecointre [left] commanded the 9th Marine Infantry Brigade which was also trained and designated by UNETIDA as Pawn Six-Two, the first force to be potentially sent to a hostile Extra-Terrestrial landing zone in central Europe. Earlier as a colonel he served as UNETIDA's Director of Staff for two years before he joined the military cabinet of the french Ministry of Defense in 2009.

It's deemed improbable that the current ranking french officer in SPEARHEAD, Division General "Faucon" Davout, the Deputy Commander for Global Strategic Plans would be considered eligible as he has not yet commanded at a corps level nor yet served in a 3-star staff position and is more likely be appointed to either billet instead.

A more likely choice is now British Army Lieutenant General Sir "Knuckles" McKenzie [right], the current SPEARHEAD Deputy Supreme Commander who replaced Colonel-General "Kóbec" Yurkov of the Russian Federation after only a year in the position. General Yurkov retired from the Russian Aerospace Forces prematurely in 2014 due to ill health. McKenzie previously served UNPASID as Regional Operations Commander [Northern] until 2008 when he was assigned to the British Ministry of Defense before Commanding the Scottish Division of the British Army until 2014. It was expected that McKenzie would serve the remaining two years of his current appointment for transition purposes but yesterday's events may force the UNSC to change plans.

After achieving success with lobbying for SPEARHEAD's number two position in 2013 the Russians may petition for the appointment of their Lieutenant General "Voran" Kerimov, the SPEARHEAD Deputy Commander for Operations, but much like the issue facing a french appointment, it's unlikely General Kerimov would be considered eligible as he also has not yet commanded at a corps level nor served in a 3-star staff position.

The Chinese have abstained from most appointment votes and have made no petitions themselves for appointments of their officers but have indicated that SPEARHEAD Deputy Commander for Missile Defence [Eastern] Junior General "Huǒjiàn" Li of the Peoples Liberation Army and Assistant Commander for Air Operations Senior Colonel “Besra” Hu of the People's Liberation Army Air Force will remain with SPEARHEAD for the foreseeable future and are ready to assume appointments to higher grades when and if necessary.

A final decision is likely to be announced in early August.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In memory of Martin Landau

New York born actor Martin Landau dated Marilyn Monroe, was friends with James Dean, turned down the role of Mr. Spock and worked with Hitchcock. He was just as at home on the small screen in Space: 1999 and Without a Trace as on the big in Cleopatra and The Greatest Story Ever Told. Despite being awarded an Oscar for Ed Wood and a Golden Globe for Mission: Impossible among many other awards and nominations, Landau was not above lending his voice to the Spider-Man animated series and The Simpsons.

My favourite Martin Landau performance however is in the 1979 disaster movie "Meteor" in which he plays Major General Adlon, the U.S. Air Force commander of an underground control centre for Hercules, an orbital nuclear missile launcher. The movie itself is awful; it is rated only 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been selected by John Vaughan for inclusion in his world famous Video Vault of Horror presentation. It is however an important precursor for ideas brought to the screen decades later with more technical superiority (and more money) in Armageddon and Deep Impact


In Meteor, Landau despite obvious hamming, easily delivers the best performance over Sean Connery, Karl Malden, Peter Fonda, Natalie Wood and Brian Keith, and convincingly expresses the frustration of a dedicated and decorated military commander sidelined to pander to scientists - alas a feeling I have known all too well.

Landau died Saturday, at the age of 89 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, Los Angeles, California; he had been briefly hospitalized and, according to his representative, died of "unexpected complications." May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part IV


As the U.S. House of representatives passed the Space Corps legislation on Friday, former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) argued against it at a seminar across town at a meeting sponsored by George Washington University's Space Policy Institute and the Aerospace Corporation.

Gen. Kehler [right] who also headed Air Force Space Command from 2007-2011 said the proposed solution does not fit the problem, which is acquisition.  "That's why people are frustrated," not because of how DOD is organized.  "Most organizational change doesn't fix the problem and is a distraction," costs more than expected and soon changes again.  "The space enterprise is filled with examples of the wreckage of some of the other things we've tried."

The problem that needs to be solved is how to "posture ourselves to be prepared for conflict that extends into space" the same way we think about conflict extending into air or sea. "We know how to do this," Kehler insisted.  It is a matter of "the grunt work of joint warfighting" and the military services providing combatant commanders with "forces that can operate and accomplish their missions in the face of a contested domain."  Reorganization is not the answer.  "We have a warfighting organization in place today with all the authority and responsibility necessary.  It's called STRATCOM."

Donley agreed. "I don't favour this proposal.  It is the opposite of the trends we're trying to achieve" of integrating space into airspace and cyberspace.  The result will be more bureaucracy, "exactly what Congress has been telling the Department not to do." Kehler summed it up by repeating that the problem is acquisition. "That's what we need to fix" and it's not magic. Many studies have been done.  "We know what's broken. Fix it."

Brigadier General Ballista Jackson USAF (Ret.) [left] who formerly served as Missile Defence Commander (Northern) for UNETIDA one of the precursor organisations to today's SPEARHEAD gave a different opinion. "Not long before I retired we ran an exercise to destroy space targets on course to earth, one towards North America, the other towards Russia. The Russians launched within 6 minutes, and destroyed their target well before it was in range. The US launched within 11 minutes and destroyed the target but not before it was in already within attack range of the U.S. Eastern seaboard."

"Bureaucracy" said Jackson who currently advises the National Security Council's Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Defense Policy and Strategy "Is the single most delaying factor in U.S. military action and is even worse when dealing with space than it is with missiles. It took five cuts of red tape for our instructions to be acted upon by STRATCOM whereas the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation were almost gleeful at the prospects of launching an interception missile. We don't envision bypassing the executive, but we need to bypass the unified command and service bureaucracy and sub-organisations of both before we were able to act especially on space matters. I firmly believe a single separate Space Corps would allow SPEARHEAD's task to be much more fluid in that regard."


Source: SPACEPOLICYONLINE.com

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part III


On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $696 bn National Defense Authorization Act including the House Armed Services Committee's approved plan for the Space Corps in a 344-81 vote despite objections from the Executive and the Pentagon.

While the Department of the Air Force voiced it's objections earlier, retired USMC General now Secretary of Defense James "Warrior Monk" Mattis (right) wrote a letter to support an amendment requested by Republican Rep. Mike Turner to eighty-six the Space Corps provision from the bill. "I made known what I think and now we'll leave it to Congress and their legislative role," said Mattis.

The White House issued a statement about the NDAA whil space defense needed to be addressed, "the creation of a separate Space Corps, however, is premature at this time."
Turner also gathered the support of the heads of the House intelligence and appropriations committees but failed when the House rules committee shit-canned the amendment and blocked it from a vote.

Mac Thornberry House Armed Services Chairman acknowledged the Pentagon's opposition, citing reforms have often met resistance from the military. "If you look back at history, it is incumbent upon Congress to make changes in the Pentagon that they cannot make for themselves." 

The Space Corps proposal's next battle will be with the U.S. Senate, which has no Space Corps proposal in its own version of the NDAA. Congress jointly hold sessions to amalgamate the two versions of the bill, involving smaller groups of representatives and senators with the authority to merge them. If the Space Corps is going to pass, one of the two representatives who created the legislation Rep. Rogers or Rep. Cooper would likely need to be a part of the final negotiations.


Source: CNN, Popular Mechanics

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SPEARHEAD sorry for "Vampire" shooting

SPEARHEAD has formally apologised for a botched operation in which a member of the town council of Binalonan, Pangasinan, Philippines was left critically injured.

Cllr Juan Lakarin is a member of the council who along with Mayor Ramon Guico III and fellow officials have been luring residents to a blood drive using social media and a sense of fun. Complete with fangs, capes and fake blood they're been posing as vampires and making social media videos for their off the wall marketing stunt designed to attract blood donors.


Unfortunately when an uninformed resident spotted Cllr Lakarin in costume they called the emergency services who routed the call to the SPEARHEAD field office in Manila who dispatched Counter-Vampire Strike Team - Epsilon who subsequently shot Cllr Lakarin with UV bullets.
 
"It was an honest mistake," said Master Warrant Officer “Chatterbox” Hendrickx of the SPEARHEAD Public Affairs office "and it's not like the worst thing that's happened in the Philippines recently, right?"

Monday, July 10, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part II

 
The proposal to create the U.S. Space Corps "combat-ready space forces that enable the commanders of the combatant commands to fight and win wars", is still only in the house bill and thus a significant distance away from getting the level of approval required for it to become law. The Senate's version of the National Defense Authorisation Act has no similar USSC provision which means that once the House and the Senate bills are combined, it could be removed entirely, altered slightly or significantly or however unlikely - even approved. The Senate will certainly study the proposal before the two chambers combine their bills, but there's already scepticism in the upper chamber that the Space Corps concept has been proven necessary and it's possible the Senate could follow the expert advice from the Air Force themselves, who are none to happy about the bill.

Opposition to the creation of the USSC as an entity is considerably vocal and includes the U.S. Air Force itself. The Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Under Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow, Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein [left], former Secretary of the Navy and NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and former commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD General Victor E. Renuart Jr. among others all oppose the suggestion. "The Pentagon is complicated enough. This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money," said Secretary Wilson. "If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy."

Even given the fact that Republicans control all three branches of government and the fact that it's clear from the formation of the proposal that both House Republicans and Democrats can apparently agree on it at this inception stage (it was voted 60-1 by the HASC), the battle will be convincing enough Representatives and Senators going forward that the proposal is in the best interests of the United States.

As it stands, the other two major world powers already have significant military presences in space with  their own military branches dedicated to space or space/cyberwarfare. The Russian Space Forces are one of three sub-branches of the Russian Aerospace Forces [a merger of the Russian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces]. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Strategic Support Force (SSF) has a broader scope than just space dominance as it's mission includes cyberwarfare and electromagnetic domains but it is partly composed of the Aerospace Systems Department, which has consolidated control the PLA’s space-based C4ISR systems. Many see that the U.S. Air Force appear to be concentrating more or their air-superiority citing the years long design and deployment debacle of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet which will cost US$1.508 trillion.

Brigadier General "Whopper" Creedon, [right] SPEARHEAD Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Information welcomed the proposal telling reporters: ".. no other group will oppose the creation of the US Space Corps as vehemently as the Air Force themselves. They along with many at the Pentagon, are notoriously adverse to change but seem to forget that not long ago they they themselves were simply created from a branch of the US Army much as it's envisioned to create the Space Corps from them."

"I'm concerned" continued the general "that the Air Force is not spending enough on space and that instead too much of their considerable budget has been funnelled into incrementally bloated projects such as the F-35 which by 2014, was more than $150 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule. A formal entity, with it's own budget and administrative goals is needed drastically in the US to properly militarise space at least on par with the Russians and the Chinese to maintain global security and peace."

The general also cited co-operation between international space-warfare forces to unite against a potential extra-terrestrial threat was one of SPEARHEADs primary goals and it was currently the U.S. Air Force that was the weakest thread in a global security blanket against that threat. "It's such a good idea that it will never happen." concluded General Creedon.



Source: CNN

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part I

As the US House House of Representatives Armed Services Committee prepares to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, their strategic forces subcommittee released proposed additions to the bill including a provision in their version of the 2018 US defense budget that would create a new separate military service dedicated to the cause of space as a warfare domain, calling it the United States Space Corps.

It is envisioned that this Space Corps would operate as a separate service represented at the Pentagon by a new Joint Chief but report to the Secretary of the Air Force and operate under their department just as the US Marine Corps do under the Department of the Navy.

The genesis of this idea spawned from a 2001 report from the Commission to Assess United States National Security, Space Management and Organization, which was headed by future SecDef Donald Rumsfeld. The report claims that "The US is more dependent on space than any other nation... Yet the threat to the US and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits."

The plan appears in the appropriations bill with the backing of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Republican Representative Mac Thornberry and the HASC ranking Democrat, Adam Smith and was put together by the ranking party members of the HASC's strategic forces subcommittee, Republican Representative Mike Rogers [left] and Democratic Representative Jim Cooper who claim that the USAF has not given adequate priority to space. US military interests in space have been traditionally administrated by the US Air Force.

In a statement, the subcommittee said: “There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding. We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems. Thus, Congress has to step in. We must act now to fix national security space and put in place a foundation for defending space as a critical element of national security.  Therefore, our Mark will require the creation, under the Secretary of the Air Force, of a new Space Corps, as a separate military service responsible for national security space programs for which the Air Force is today responsible.  We view this as a first, but critical step, to fixing the National Security Space enterprise.”

Reactions to this and the potential future of this proposal are outlined in Part II

Source: Ars Technica, FAS.org, Spacenews.com,