Space Force focuses on building a digital workforce

Gen. John Raymond, U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command commander at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Armando Schwier-Morales) 

Gen. John Raymond, U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command commander at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Armando Schwier-Morales)

The U.S. Space Force is focusing on building its cadre of coders amid a workforce boom with more interested applicants than available positions, according to the branch's chief of space operations.

"We've got more people knocking on our door wanting to become a part of the space force than we have positions; we can be very selective of who we bring in," Gen. John Raymond said during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on June 8.

Raymond testified that promotion rates to colonel and lieutenant colonel had also increased from being 20% below the Air Force average to above par.

"The development of our space professionals has gone through the roof. Promotion rates before were 20% below the Air Force average for colonels and lt. we're above that average," Raymond said. "Across the board we have seen measurable, quantifiable increases."

The Space Force's Human Capital Office has been developing a unified talent management strategy, dubbed the Guardian Strategy, to hone space professionals for a highly digital environment with increased process automation and new digital platforms.

"We look to develop and employ talent by taking a competency-based development approach, mandating more robust feedback systems, and creating potential-based promotion assessments with sequenced talent management boards," Raymond stated in written testimony.

The testimony calls for the development of "supra coders," who graduate from the Space Force's software coding training program.

"To achieve the goal of a digital workforce we must cultivate our collective digital acumen, develop an expert cadre of and equip and empower them to apply agile software practices, use artificial intelligence, and data science," the document states.

The Space Force is also developing its own professional military education programs for officers and enlisted personnel.

Raymond's comments come as the Space Force works to stand up two of its three field commands this year: Space Systems Command, which will focus on acquisitions, and Space Training and Readiness Command, which will develop doctrine, testing and training.

The training focus also extends to cyber -- an area the Space Force has been working to strengthen from protecting satellite communications and infrastructure, plus onboarding a cadre of about 1,300 cyber professionals from across military branches.

But when pressed on concerns about recent cyberattacks like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that affected fuel supply along the East Coast in May, Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth said, "we need to partner with the private sector."

"We're also very concerned about protecting our networks and I will say for example, that a lot of what we're going to do in the future is this Joint All Domain Command and Control," Roth said. "Our piece of this is the Advanced Battle Management System -- data security, cybersecurity in order to get that data from point A to point B becomes absolutely fundamental for us to operate in the future."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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