Space force

Space Force launches new intelligence unit as Congress voices concerns over growth

Space Force has taken command of a new unit that will focus on monitoring alien threats in space, but it comes as Congress warns the small service branch it must prepare to slow its growth.

Delta 18 and the brand new National Space Intelligence Center officially went live late last month at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. It will be made up of nearly 350 civilian and military personnel.

Delta 18’s mission is “to provide critical intelligence on threat systems, foreign intentions and activities in the space domain to support national leaders, allies, partners and joint warfighters,” according to a statement. Press.

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The creation of the unit equips the Space Force to assist and work alongside US intelligence agencies by providing them with information from its growing fleet of satellites and surveillance tools. Avril Haines, President Joe Biden’s director of national intelligence, said being able to harness new intelligence in space would be crucial.

” In the years to come, [space] will only become more contested,” Haines said during the unit’s activation ceremony on June 24. “And as we move forward, the NSIC will be relied upon to generate and analyze scientific and technical intelligence related to space for the whole nation.”

While funding for the National Space Intelligence Center was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, the launch of the new unit comes as Congress warns the Space Force against continued expansion.

This spring, the Space Force requested $24.5 billion in its 2023 budget request — an increase of more than 40% from the previous year — with the majority of funds to go to research and development, as well than setting up more missile warnings. systems.

Three days before Delta 18’s founding ceremony, the House Appropriations Committee filed a June 21 report warning the new military branch “against starting more programs than it can afford” and reminded the service that lawmakers expect funding to start declining in 2027.

“Space Force’s ambitious plans for new architectures, programs and mission domains do not appear to be supported by credible budget projections in the coming years to actually deliver these capabilities,” the report details.

Space Force, which falls under the Department of the Air Force, similar to the relationship between the Marine Corps and the Navy, also receives clear signals of advisory moderation from Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.

Kendall said at the Space Symposium in Colorado last April that the new service should not focus on space as an “independent combat domain” and should instead view its mission as a support organization for other branches.

The comments seemed to throw cold water on some of the service’s fundamental efforts to grow and mature as a single branch.

The Space Force is significantly smaller than the other branches, with approximately 8,000 Guardians on active duty and almost as many civilian employees, for a total force of approximately 16,000. By comparison, the Coast Guard has approximately 40,000 personnel and the Marine Corps about 180,000, both tiny compared to the Army and Navy.

Some experts, such as Robert Farley — a professor at the University of Kentucky who studies national security and intelligence with a service focus — believe the Space Force needs to grow significantly in order to acquire resources like the other branches.

“The Space Force will come and acquire these personnel-type structures once and if it becomes a similar-sized institution to the others,” Farley told last month. “It’s really a matter of size versus a matter of time.”

— Thomas Novelly can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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