For the US space force, Raymond’s retirement marks the end of an era

Raymond: “In recent years, the Department of Defense has prioritized space”

WASHINGTON — The first head of the US Space Force, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond on Nov. 2 will relinquish command to Gen. B. Chance Salzman and retire after 38 years of military service.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to attend the change of command ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and recognize Raymond for his role in laying the groundwork for the nation’s first military service focused on the space sector.

Long before he was sworn in as the head of the US space force January 2020, Raymond was the leading figure in the US Air Force space organization. When the Pentagon reestablished the US Space Command in August 2019, Raymond was named commander.

So when Congress signed legislation in December 2019 authorizing the Space Force as the nation’s sixth military branch within the Department of the Air Force, Raymond was seen as the obvious choice to lead it.

As the first official member of the new agency, Raymond had to start building it from scratch, transferring people and funding from the Air Force’s space units. Through it all, he’s had to navigate a charged political landscape, as the Space Force in its early days was seen as a vanity project by former President Trump and parodied in a Netflix projection.

At a White House event marking the first anniversary of the Space Force, then-Vice President Mike Pence announced that members of the agency would be called Guardians.

While many predicted that President Joe Biden would reverse course on the Space Force, Gov. gave full support and the last two years enhanced the agency’s budget amid concerns that U.S. satellites have become military targets and need to be better defended.

Raymond played a central role attracting attention on US military and intelligence assessments that Russia is developing anti-satellite weapons that could threaten US systems and urged the Space Force to innovate faster to stay ahead of china. It has also advocated for the US and all other nations to adopt “behavor rulesTo keep space safe from weapons and debris.

Achievements, challenges ahead

Salzman, who was Raymond’s top choice to succeed him, inherits a Space Force of about 16,000 people, half uniformed and half civilians.

In a recent interview with SpaceNewsRaymond said he is proud of what has been accomplished in less than three years and is confident that the Space Force is on a solid footing.

“When we created this service we wanted to make it very flexible, very lean. We’ve flattened the bureaucracy, we’ve reduced head office levels, we’ve dealt with it largely from existing resources,” he said.

Being small, however, can make it difficult to meet the administrative and bureaucratic requirements associated with military service, Raymond warned. The new leader will also be under pressure to modernize aging systems and find a way forward for the Space Force reserve element.

Raymond said Saltzman “is going to have to figure out what the right size of service is.”

“When you’re operating within the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense, you have to have enough mass to be able to just attend meetings, get things done and approve,” he added. “Do we have enough or do we need to grow a little?”

The good news for the new chief is that “over the last few years, the Department has prioritized space,” Raymond said. “And there was an increase in our budgets.” Moving forward, “we just need to be able to articulate what it is that we need and have the analytical rigor that says: here’s why.”

An organization within the Space Force that Raymond pushed to create is the Space Warfighting Analysis Center. SWAC is a group of “our brightest PhDs and our best and brightest operators” tasked with what Raymond calls “force planning” that will inform future procurement of satellites and other systems. “I’m very comfortable today that we have the capabilities and I’m comfortable that we can protect it and defend it,” he said, “but we have to get this work done.”

“As the threat continues to evolve and as threats to our space assets continue to emerge, we must transform our space architectures to be more capable and resilient,” he said. “If we get it right, it will allow us to capitalize on the potential of the commercial industry. I think the way we go about force planning will open up the opportunity to leverage more trade and more allies and partners.”

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