The U.S. Is at Risk of ‘Chain of Command Confusion in Space,’ Report Warns

(Bloomberg) -- A slew of overlapping White House and Pentagon proposals to reshape U.S. military space operations, development and acquisition “could present considerable challenges” to the Pentagon’s effective functioning in the next war-fighting realm, according to a report from Congress’s research arm.

While lawmakers have previously warned that existing U.S. space efforts dealing with national security are hampered by fragmented leadership and overlapping authorities, those problems could quickly worsen at the same time that the military threat in space escalates, Congressional Research Service analyst Kathleen McInnis said in a new assessment.

“The concepts and details of these military space-related proposals remain unclear -- if not contradictory -- at this time, prompting fundamental questions,” McInnis wrote.

One key concern is who has command of military space operations. There is a risk of “creating chain of command confusion in space -- a domain that is hardest to access, yet strategically vital,” she said. As an example, she pointed to potential “frictions” for resources between the Air Force overall and the separate Space Force, both headed by four-star generals.

President Donald Trump ordered the creation of U.S. Space Command in December as part of a major overhaul of military space operations that also included a request for Congress to authorize the Space Force, the first new service branch since the Air Force was founded in 1947.

The Defense Department is also requesting authority to set up a Pentagon Space Development Agency.

Some of the themes highlighted in the study may play out Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will testify before the committee on establishing a U.S. Space Force on Thursday morning.

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