The U.S. military’s new branch, the Space Force, now has a division in Santa Barbara County.
On Friday, Air Force officials said they had redesignated a unit headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base to support the Space Force. The 14th Air Force, with personnel totaling nearly 16,000 worldwide, is now the Space Operations Command.
The order by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett was effective as of Dec. 20, when President Donald Trump signed a defense bill that established the Space Force, according to a news release from the base. The Space Force is the sixth branch of the country’s armed forces, along with the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.
“Air Force military and civilian personnel previously assigned to 14th Air Force are now assigned to SPOC by virtue of the redesignation action,” officials said in the release.
The Space Operations Command is “directly supporting” the Space Force’s mission to protect U.S. interests in space, the announcement read. That includes deterring aggression “in, from and to” space and conducting space operations.
The base outside Lompoc is familiar to Ventura County residents in part through rocket and missile launches that can create spectacular displays in local skies. Launches from the facility include those by private companies SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The U.S. Space Force, now the sixth branch of the U.S. military, became reality Friday evening when @realDonaldTrump signed into law the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act — but it could be months before the service has its own troops. https://t.co/fsMw9g07c2
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) December 21, 2019
The Space Operations Command will provide space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection and other capabilities, officials said. The division will be led by Maj. Gen. John Shaw, formerly commander of the 14th Air Force.
“Every day, all around the world, people count on us to make a difference – to provide precise and decisive space effects that keep our country, our allies and our partners safe,” Shaw said in the release. “We will not let them down.”
The Space Force was launched via the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
“Space has become so important to our way of life, our economy and our national security that we must be prepared as a nation to protect it from hostile actions,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a Dec. 20 Pentagon release.
Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in the release that space “is not just a place from which we support combat operations in other domains, but a warfighting domain in and of itself. Our adversaries are building and deploying capabilities to threaten us, so we can no longer take space for granted.”
The Space Force is an independent branch of the military, although it is “nested within the Department of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps is connected to the Department of the Navy,” military officials said when announcing the new branch. The Space Force will leverage the Air Force for “more than 75 percent of its enabling functions” as a way to cut costs and boost efficiency, officials said.
© 2019 Journal Media Group