October 05, 2021

The Asset Transfer Fight

he transfer of space-related units and functions from the Army and Navy to the Space Force will begin by Oct. 1, but some space-related functions may never move over.

More than a dozen interviews with high-level Space Force officials and Pentagon insiders from the last administration indicate the Joint Chiefs struggled over space assets and personnel, with the Army and Navy resistant to giving up those forces. Spokesmen for the services declined to comment or to publicly reveal which units, functions, and missions will begin transferring to the Space Force at the start of fiscal 2022, but those most likely to remain behind are known.

The transfer of Air Force space-related assets was directed by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, Subtitle D, “United States Space Force Act,” which redesignated the Air Force Space Command and gave the Secretary of the Air Force authority to transfer personnel to the Space Force.

That was the easy part.

But determining which personnel, units, and missions would be removed from the other services was left up to the services and the Secretary of Defense to hash out. 

“This has been a looming dispute for many, many years,” said 25-year Air Force veteran and Heritage Foundation defense analyst John Venable. “As soon as the Space Force … became part of the day-to-day conversation in the Trump administration, you could kind of see that each of the services had their own tepid response to that,” Venable added.

Long lists of functions, units, and missions across the services started to pass through the highest offices of national security space at the Pentagon.

In the Army, space-related units listed include Army Space and Missile Defense Headquarters at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and its associated satellites, the 1st Space Brigade in Fort Carson, Colo., and a battery of some 500 Army SA-40 space specialists.