Former chief of U.S. Space Command applauds restoring it, with some caveats
By Tom Risen|September 25, 2018
Richard Myers says he does not see the need for a Space Force
Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers generally likes the Trump administration’s proposal to revive U.S. Space Command, which he led from 1998 to 2000.
“I think if there were a U.S. Space Command like there used to be it would obviate the need for a Space Force,” Myers told me in a phone interview.
The Pentagon in August announced its intent to revive U.S. Space Command as a “first phase” toward establishing a Space Force as a separate military branch. Initially, the command would be staffed by personnel from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, as was the case when the command existed from 1985 to 2002.
Myers said the timing of world events played a role in the decision by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2002 to deactivate U.S. Space Command. Myers was chairman of the Joint Chiefs at that time. The Pentagon in 2002 took a “tooth to tail” budget perspective when considering whether to deactivate U.S. Space Command. Also, Cold War tensions had receded with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Military and diplomatic “relations with Russia had never been better,” Myers said. “The threat from a nuclear conflict was diminished then.”
The Joint Chiefs decided to merge the functions of U.S. Space Command, then headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, into the broader deterrence mission of U.S. Strategic Command, Myers said.
Geopolitics have changed since the Defense Department deactivated the command. Now, tensions with Russia are surging and new technologies are adding an urgency to “let other commands know what space can bring to the fight,” he said. Among the top missions for U.S. Space Command during the Cold War was to coordinate with U.S. Air Force Space Command, which operated satellites including the geosynchronous Defense Support Program spacecraft that would have detected nuclear missile launches.
Reviving U.S. Space Command “does make sense” as long as the Pentagon doesn’t rush into it, Myers said. The question is whether U.S. Strategic Command is keeping the military informed and prepared for potential space-related threats, “and if it is, why do we have to re-create it?” The Joint Chiefs of Staff share classified information and are “up to speed” on space-related threats and technology without a sixth chief of staff focused on space, Myers said. U.S. Space Command was more valuable for space-related communication between the armed services, because “it’s unusual that any one person knows everything.”
“When you have one command focused on that area I think it brings a focus to it that’s important,” he said. “I think the investment to re-establish U.S Space Command makes a lot of sense.”
The service branches, mainly the Air Force or a future Space Force, would continue to pay for and operate satellites or offensive space weapons, if they are ever developed. The expense during his leadership was a relatively modest one for the command’s personnel and facilities, he said. Spending records for fiscal 1999 compiled by Air Force magazine cited an $18 million budget for U.S. Space Command.