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The United States Space Force (USSF) today revealed a bold new strategy for human capital management — The Guardian Ideal. In it, the Service takes a values-centric approach and lays out a vision for reforming everything from recruiting and retention to professional development and quality of life. Senior leaders see this not just as an optional quality of life improvement, but as vital to accomplishing its missions with a lean force by attracting, developing, retaining, and empowering the best talent.
The plan, in development for about a year and a half, is perhaps the most ambitious in a series of moves to revolutionize how the Service does business. It follows the USSF Vision for a Digital Service which was released this Spring to implement core tenants of the 2020 Chief of Space Operations’ Planning Guidance.
The challenge facing the Space Force is unique in American history. The Service has been tasked to prepare forces to protect and defend space capabilities and provide independent options to combatant commanders. It is challenged to keep up with centrally-controlled adversaries and the potential of commercial capabilities that exceed their own. It has only just built the command structure necessary to provide the full range of organize, train, and equip functions to operate as an independent service. USSF is realizing these changes and sustaining its commitment to the Joint Force with an active duty strength about 1/20th the size of the United States Marine Corps or 1/6th the size of the United States Coast Guard.
To succeed, USSF will have to make sure that every Guardian counts. That means recruiting the best talent, developing their potential to excel, and keeping them in the Service. It also means helping them identify as Guardians, and empowering and motivating them to give their best work to every team they’re on.
Hot on the heels of new enlisted rank insignia and physical training uniforms and publicly unveiled the same day as new dress uniforms, The Guardian Ideal seeks to finally deliver substantive change that will distinguish Space Force culture by putting values first. It establishes the Guardian Commitment. Essentially superseding the Air Force Core Values, the Commitment is a two-way promise between leaders and their teams to prioritize: Character, Connection, Commitment, and Courage.
In an exclusive interview with SFA, Jason Lamb, one of the chief authors famous for his critiques of the legacy Air Force approach to personnel, stressed that no Guardian should feel like a “second class citizen” when it comes to opportunities. “When we talk about Guardians, it’s all Guardians [officer, enlisted, and civilian].” This approach is stressed throughout The Guardian Ideal. Aspirations include knocking down rank or uniform barriers to accessing professional development opportunities and pairing Guardians to jobs based on “proven abilities and experience” whenever possible.
The intent is to extend that principle beyond existing Guardians as well. The Service hopes to allow individuals with an interest and the right background to become Guardians at any time in their professional careers and to enter the Service at a grade appropriate to their competence.
To realize those ambitions, the Service is committing to a whole new approach to talent management and performance reporting. Inspired by best practices in the commercial sector and leveraging digital automation to reduce the burden on members, the system should use the same measures of competencies for evaluating individuals as for describing jobs. This will allow unparalleled transparency and control in the assignment and advancement process. It is also intended to disincentivize in-fighting and ladder-climbing. As Lamb put it, “we want to be competing with our adversaries, not our fellow Guardians!”
Early this morning the plan was unveiled to Guardians by Pat Mulcahy, USSF Chief Human Capital Officer. Mulcahy described the intent as “unleashing the potential of... every... Guardian” to form “unified, inclusive, interconnected, and high-performing teams.” Diversity has been an emphasis item, and a point of contention, for senior leaders, but Mulcahy reassured Guardians that “being a lean service, every person’s contribution is vital… our cultural atmosphere must be one of high trust, mutual accountability, and transparency.”
Preserving that potential and engendering that trust will mean sustaining resilience throughout a period of service. Mulcahy stressed that addressing the wellbeing of Guardians and families. The Guardian Ideal describes Integrated Resiliency Teams that will align resources for physical, spiritual, mental, and social support across a range of situations.
Publishing The Guardian Ideal is just the beginning. The implementation plan, laid out in an annex, is ambiguous and will require a sustained commitment to change long-standing policies, procedures, and even laws. That means gaining support from Congress and the Department of Defense — efforts that are already well underway. In fact, discussion at a Colorado Springs event this summer disclosed that many in DoD hope that Space Force will be a pathfinder for others. After the Space Force uses its novelty and small size as justification to open the door for change, other Services may also step through, implementing their own renovations.
Radical change is simply a necessity if such a small Service is to adapt, fight, and win in and from the most expansive and challenging warfighting domain. Senior Space Force leaders are committed to that end, directing bold action, and now making big promises to Guardians. With a roadmap now in hand, all Guardians will be following along, eager to see how well the Service sticks to the course.
SFA recently had the opportunity to interview CMSgt Jacob Simmons, Command Senior Enlisted Leader at Joint Task Force – Space Defense, who recently published Ascendancy: The Space Warfighter Mindset which outlines some key characteristics necessary for the space warfighter culture to develop.
Pictured: CMSgt Jacob Simmons helps lead Guardians in support of Joint Task Force – Space Defense (credit JTF-SD/PA)
With the USSF Human Capital Management Strategy set to be released later this month, we wanted to get his perspective on the importance of developing the space warfighter mindset.
SFA: Why did you get into space operations and why did you stay?
CMSgt Simmons: I have had the exceptional honor of serving as a space professional in the Air Force and now the Space Force for over 29 years. I was launched into space operations as a first-term Airman, I immediately fell in love with space, and I truly never looked back. With each enlistment, my career became more of a calling. This has never been my occupation; it has always been my profession. I quickly became one of those early “cadre zealots” that actually took to heart the facts and findings of the Space Commission and I have dedicated my career to developing and advancing space professionals and our mission to meet this very moment. I take tremendous pride in how far we have come in such a relatively short time. Honestly, the realization of our Space Force and Space Command is still sinking in. Unfortunately, our adversaries have been moving out faster and with more focus over the last two decades and they have gained ground on us where we should have held our lead. We can’t be content with organizational change - we need cultural change. I hope “Ascendancy” gives this new generation of warfighters the same lift that set me out on my spacewalk.
Q: Why did you write Ascendancy: The Space Warfighter Mindset?
CMSgt Simmons: We are staring at the dawn of an new era. A time we have never known is rising on the horizon and we must also rise to meet it. Everything in space is accelerating, adapting, and advancing, from technology to the threat…and so must our thinking. “Ascendancy,” our supremacy in space, is meant to be more than an ideal…it is meant to change our mindset and elevate our culture.
SFA: What key points are important for the American people to understand?
CMSgt Simmons: The preservation of our space capabilities protects our American way of life. Our competitors understand our reliance on space and they want to take advantage of the chinks they think they see in our American armor: comfort, complacency, and overconfidence. The fact is, our high ground is no longer out of reach or out of harm’s way. If we fail to hold this line, we risk losing it all. We (American society) must put a higher premium on our freedom to access and ability to operate in space, and be willing to fight for it whenever that freedom is challenged. It is imperative the American citizen fundamentally understands why we can never have a day without space.
SFA: Do you believe America has an opportunity to lead space warfighter culture development?
CMSgt Simmons: America has more than an “opportunity” - we have an “obligation” to lead. We lead with assertiveness and assurance in every other domain - Space is no different. We must set the standard for all others in Space through our character, commitment, competence, and credibility. As the world looks beyond the horizon and on to the stars; towards the undetermined and the undiscovered; we must establish and model the behaviors for all others to emulate, just as we have on land, at sea, and in the air.
SFA: What is the key characteristic most important to space warfigher development?
CMSgt Simmons: Spacemindedness. Our most capable weapon system breathes AND thinks. As General John “Jay” Raymond says, “Space is hard.” It was hard when we were unchallenged, now space is really hard! Intel-driven, cyber-powered space operations are complex, complicated, and challenged. Our distinction, as credible and equal joint warfighters, is built on expertise and experience; knowledge and know how. We must see ourselves as more than value added to the fight - we are now the determining factor for when, where, and how we fight. Our reputation (our credit) must be based on our ascendancy in space.
SFA: How can the USSF help foster these characteristics?
CMSgt Simmons: We should see each Guardian as an “Ascendant” to what is now, and what will be tomorrow; not as a descendant of what has been, and what was yesterday. As General Charles “C.Q.” Brown reminds us, we must “Accelerate change or lose.” The hardest thing to change is the mind; our biases and our thinking. Space is no longer permissible or predictable. First, we all must acknowledge a felt need for change. Ascendancy is the change we asked for in 2000; Ascendancy is the change that we needed in 2007; and Ascendancy is the change that the moment now demands. Second, advancing change requires bold leadership. Leaders rise and thrive in change; when it is confusing, chaotic, crazy, and in crisis. Lastly, we can’t get discouraged by the growing pains. Change is often jarring. It is uncomfortable and can be fatiguing. But this is what growth looks and feels like. The felt pain in the process is actual proof of progress. We are changing (growing) out of necessity. As Guardians, we shouldn’t be satisfied simply being in the Space Force; we should each be striving to build the Space Force. We really only have two choices, act to change or react to change.
SFA: What are some of the pitfalls to establishing the needed culture?
CMSgt Simmons: First, Space is too big to go it alone. It touches and must be touched by every other domain. Second, culture isn’t just about how we see ourselves - it’s just as much about how others see us…that includes our adversaries. And third, culture can’t be directed down. Our most junior warfighters and frontline leaders should be encouraged to take ownership for what they are inheriting, while acknowledging experience as a teacher. Let’s not leave our warfighter culture to chance; wondering, watching and waiting to see what grows up under our feet.
SFA: Can culture development help lead agile acquisitions for the USSF?
CMSgt Simmons: Our culture must absolutely lead our capability, that’s the vision of “Ascendancy.” It is believed Albert Einstein once said: “If I were given an hour in which to do a problem upon which my life depended, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes solving it.” Thinking and understanding is the key to overcoming our challenges in space. Measuring twice (prioritizing requirements) and cutting once (fielding systems) saves time and resources, and ensures we get the right kit to the fight faster. The manufacturing must meet the mission, with the warfighter’s felt need kept at the forefront. Space is now a warfighting domain and we must invest more thoughtfully in our readiness, reliability, resilience, resourcefulness, and reconstitution. As warfighters, our mandate is to win. It is why the warfighter exist. That cannot get lost in space.
By Bill Woolf, President, Space Force Association (SFA)
On 22 June, Department of the Air Force (DAF) leaders spoke in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Subcommittee on Air and Land to identify United States Air Force (USAF) priorities based on pacing a China threat for a potential 2030 fight. The hearing included testimony by Lt Gen Duke Richards, USAF SAF/AQ Military Deputy, Lt Gen David Nahom, Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) for Plans and Programs, and Lt Gen Joseph Guastella, DCS for Operations. What was missing from this discussion was the priorities for the United States Space Force (USSF).
One of the main reasons for a separate USSF is to inform DAF priorities based on emerging threats from space to all domain superiority. Yet this hearing, like so many before, continues to present priorities without including space considerations. The hearing schedule doesn’t include any agenda items dedicated to examining the opportunities in or operational needs of the space domain.
Lt Gen Saltzman, Deputy Chief of Space Operations, addresses Space Force Association members with Bill Woolf, SFA President, at an event in Washington D.C. this June.
Each service is responsible for presenting ready forces to combatant commanders. The USSF is no different. It must identify the functions necessary to assure space dominance, train Guardians to execute those functions, and present those forces to not just United States Space Command (USSPACECOM), but the other 11 geographic and functional combatant commands as well. Services, not combatant commands are responsible for preparing warfighters. It is only after qualification, certification, and advanced training that service warfighters are ready to conduct operations. Just as the other services prepare Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen, the USSF prepares Guardians to conduct their domain superiority missions and provide effects in space and across domains.
To ensure their capabilities meet the needs of the Joint Force the USSF, like all other services, will need a robust operational test and training infrastructure. Before the USSF, systems were often accepted after only developmental test, without thorough shakedowns of performance envelopes, suitability in contested environments, or tactics validation. Integration – the coordinated efforts of multiple systems across diverse missions, effects, and all domains to achieve synergistic effects – is becoming more important for space operations. The status quo of untested stand-alone capabilities is quickly becoming less an acceptable expedient and more an impediment to operational utility. Providing forces that can be confidently combined with others demands rigorous operational test. The requisite resources, such as instrumented ranges and realistic simulators connected to shared environments do not yet exist for space as they do for the other physical domains. Rather, current practices are akin to an F-22 being declared operational without confirming the fire control radar can correlate a target or certifying a pilot to fly it. Only with a properly designed and resourced range, test, and training infrastructure can Guardians be confident in their weapons and competent in their employment.
To prepare for future conflicts Guardians must do more than rehearse steady state operations. The Guardian must also be put into scenarios that represent contested, degraded, and operationally limited conditions. Scenario-based experiences pitting Guardians against a thinking adversary are vital. RED FLAG, a two-week aerial combat exercise held several times a year, offers realistic air-combat training for military aviators so their first combat experience is familiar, increasing their odds of success dramatically. In an interview with SFA, Col Mike “Sax” Mathes, former RED FLAG Commander, expressed the need for the USSF to develop a similar venue. Current offerings like SPACE FLAG lack the realism and integration required to meet Lt Gen Saltzman’s priority.
The USSF has operational needs that must be integrated and objectively prioritized with other budget items. When space needs are presented through the lens of “aerospace” by DAF, they will be subconsciously obscured or even deliberately minimized in favor of airpower requirements. For the time being only specific demands from Congress can ensure the right information about the space domain is elevated. There are many ways to get the right military experts to present this information, but one approach would be for HASC and SASC to establish subcommittees dedicated to the national security space to call on senior USSF and defense space leaders to communicate their priorities for space domain superiority directly.
This month is the start of something new for the Space Force Association (SFA). We are proud to announce a new mission, vision, and motto and to begin a series of initiatives to grow the organization, increase the value of your membership, and amplify your voice in the future of national security space and our U.S. Space Force.
Our new mission is to achieve superior national spacepower by shaping a Space Force that provides credible deterrence in competition, dominant capability in combat, and professional services for all partners. To do that, we envision being recognized as the professional association for informed government, business, and private members to lend their diverse ideas, voices, and energy to defining national spacepower and building a Space Force capable of achieving it.
SFA will engage not just with the Service, but around it as well. To participate in the whole of nation conversation about spacepower, find the Space Force’s best possible role in the U.S. as a space-faring nation, and work with policymakers and stakeholders to help the U.S. and it’s Space Force realize that potential. To accomplish that, we will connect our members to Guardians, academia, and partner organizations and empower them to:
- Research forward and innovative ideas with rigor
- Inform about Guardians’ stories and the nature of national spacepower
- Advocate for the most effective Space Force possible
The orbital environment in 2050 will be profoundly changed. SFA anticipates a future is imminent in which material, energy, and human capital are generated in space and that a coordinated whole-of-nation effort is required to ensure the U.S. is a leader in the domain. Emerging economic and environmental realities will drive space commerce beyond the familiar information services into new sectors that spur the emergence of the first material, energy, and manufacturing industries off the Earth. The number of nations participating beyond Earth orbit will grow. Humans will be working as far away as the moon and in much greater numbers than currently visit low Earth orbit. Some will even call space home.
Meanwhile, the underlying risks to U.S. security and prosperity that led to the independent Space Force are real and increasing. Competition in technology and across the information and economic instruments of power are constant and the American lead is, in some respects, diminishing. Several adversaries have openly demonstrated anti-satellite weapons and blatantly tried to shape international norms through blatantly unprofessional behaviors in launch and on-orbit.
We also must never forget that the most constant adversary in space is the environment itself. Space is far from being “tamed.” We have yet to achieve the kind of technological dominance over it that enables freedom of navigation in the air and maritime domains. For the foreseeable future it is as important to invest in the technology and ideas that will make space safer and more affordable as it is to acquire mission specific capabilities.
Though the threats are real, the opportunities for prosperity exceed the risks to security. Information generated in and moved through space will continue to rise in value. Large scale space based solar power could meet the growing energy needs of expanding populations and modernizing communities. The mineral resources of the Moon and nearest asteroids are known to dwarf those of Earth.
A nation that has the strategic will to bring those resources within their economic reach will be leaders in the century ahead. This cannot be done expediently by monolithic capital investments like previous grand works. Instead, the fastest way to sustainable success is for government to lead where it can set goals, reduce risk, nurture innovation, and incentivize investment and leave the rest to the best and brightest of their private partners.
In space, as in other domains, national security is served by creating peaceful opportunities for prosperity that far outweigh the risks of conflict with a capable and competent adversary. SFA believes that the Space Force has a vital role to play in realizing the U.S.’ potential as a space-faring nation. The military has historically been at the forefront of new frontiers and that should remain increasingly true in space. The military is uniquely suited for interagency planning, metered risk-taking, establishing norms of behavior, and architecture for basic infrastructure. These functions all increase the safety, affordability, and probability of success for those who follow.
Outright violence in space will continue to be rare as long as targets are exquisite and consequences extreme. Preeminence in spacepower is inherently technological and economic, but must be underwritten by warfighting capabilities. In addition to the de facto role in providing destructive options on the worst day, the Space Force has much to contribute to the constructive efforts that will shape the peace in the prevailing periods on the spectrum of competition in space.
SFA was created to give a voice to Guardians and will continues to harness and refine the best ideas to inform the conversations and decisions that will shape our Space Force and enable Guardians to win in competition and conflict.
We are proud to share this journey with you and look forward to sharing more of our plans over the coming months. There are exciting things on our burn plan! We encourage you to be an active participant by sharing and engaging with us online and volunteering some of your precious time to our shared cause. Together we will Catalyze Spacepower… At Home and on The Frontier!
Catalyzing Spacepower... At Home and on the Frontier