Media Roundtable on Space Force with Deputy Secretary Shanahan
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan
STAFF: So today, we have a 45-min on the record with the deputy secretary and the vice chair. If there's any questions, let me know. I'll take those for you. The purpose of the round table is to discuss the Space Report. So we can keep our focus on that, best utilize our time.
And in the interest of time, please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up so we can get through as many as we can. Even though we have nametags on here, please state your name and affiliation when you ask a question. And let us know when we're getting close to time that we have a few minutes left so we can kind of keep everyone on time. If you have questions, gentlemen -- sir?
Q: Is it OK if we start early?
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN: Yes, yes. No, that's good.
Q: Only Jim would say yes.
MR. SHANAHAN: Yes, yes. No, no. Let's see, got everybody in here? I think we made copies of the Space Report if you'd like one. We'll do that -- who's -- do we have copies?
We thought -- yes, you know, I -- what -- because part -- part of what I wanted to do is to actually go through the space report and tell you what are the good parts. You know, like if you -- if you had to write an article, it's like this is -- this is where the meat is and these other parts are kind of lower on the -- on the list. So I think we can just pass that out and then...
STAFF: I can go get my computer and turn it on.
MR. SHANAHAN: Yes, right. We snatch your cell phone. But, what I did is I put a -- just put together a couple of remarks. I'll just provide those and the idea there was to really kind of setup the discussion, give some background on how the report was written.
First of all, welcome everyone. Appreciate the availability on short flow. And my mom was pretty excited today that my report was mentioned by the vice president, so it's a good day at the Shanahan house.
And I think we know we'll run out of time today. But hopefully what we can do is set context and, you know, clarify, you know, a lot of the questions you might have. But my guess is we'll need a follow on just because more questions will come up then we'll have time to answer. And I know Jim has some other commitments.
But, you know, I know this group in -- to varying to degree. But many of us come at this from, you know, different backgrounds and different, I'll say, time with the department. So what I hope to do is maybe get an integrated view and give you a -- kind of a sense of how we're looking at the -- the Space Force, you know, top-down instead of, you know, from the bottoms-up in -- in a lot of a lot of the nitty-gritty details. But we can get to those.
And I'd just like to recognize General Selva here, who has been a fantastic partner. Been working through a lot of the space report, he's -- I'll call him one of my favorite technical experts when I -- when I get things wrong. And he's like -- pulls me back.
I just want to read a couple of these statements. And it's just first maybe to kind of frame things, there are so many changes and activities underway here in the Pentagon. I mean, you have to remember, this is, you know, a department that has a budget of $700 billion. We're about the 15th largest economy in the world. So it's really important that we kind of put things into context and into scale.
I'm -- I'm hopeful that through this discussion, we'll be able to describe how the Space Force fists in with the changes and activities that are going on in the building, not kind of isolated and -- and pulled apart. And, you know, this is probably what will underscore a lot of the description is that we look at the Space Force through the lens of the National Defense Strategy. It's really important that that's the context in which it's taken. And the Space Force itself will accelerate our efforts to implement the National Defense Strategy.
The 1601 Report, and that's the report that all of you have in -- in front of you, was directed by Representative Rogers and Cooper. And it was to look at how we can do more, do more quickly and do more with less red tape. That was the real essence of what they asked myself and others to go do.
And for the last nine months, I've worked with Air Force leadership to identify changes to do more. And I've been helped by, obviously, the joint staff and General Selva, by STRATCOM, Research and Engineering, policy, and the National Space Council and the Office of the Vice President.
I went over, not too long ago, before really taking a pen to paper, and I asked Chairman Rogers and -- and Cooper, how long should the report be? So when we look at the length of the report, it's 13 pages. I said, you know, do you want it 100 pages, do you want it 5 pages? And it was really, you know, what -- what level of detail because they're the audience.
And they said make it about 10 pages. So it's -- it's 13. I think if we reformatted it we could probably get it into 10. But that's the reason for its length.
And I really did write it. So what you'll see as you go through it, it's -- it's written like an engineer will write it. And it's, you know, for me it's -- when we -- when I sat down to write it, it was make sure that there is -- is real integration with the national space strategy, the National Security Strategy, and the National Defense Strategy.
So this isn't something done outside of what the department is doing or how we're aligned with the National Security Strategy. That was really important.
The second -- and we'll get into it when I kind of step through the report -- is that it's really about results and the identification of outcomes. It's about organizations. It's not about structures.
And in the report, you'll see where we do talk about organization. The construct flows from, you know, the form follows the function. It's not that we're creating a -- creating organizations, there is a purpose to how we're structured and an outcome that's stated.
And then, what I'm hoping you'll find as you go through here is that it's really focused on being concise. So deliberately in each one of the areas identified what is the -- the change, because it's -- you can write these reports in such a way that you can't really tell what the change is. And I tried to distill it into what are three or four just fundamental changes. It's lots of changes, but what are the changes.
And then the priorities, so if we were sitting down and tasking, say for example, the person in charge of U.S. Space Command and we wrote them a letter, we'd say these are the priorities. And there's lots of other things. But, you know, at a top level, this is what's the most important.
And then I put in there timing; how do we think about timing. And a lot of the timing is -- is really geared towards -- and I have a bias towards this, you know, line of sight -- 18 months to 2 years. Because if you talk too far into the future in terms of putting plans, you're more abstract and it's hard to anchor real commitments and -- and drive accountability.
Maybe a couple of -- more comments before we dive into the report, the -- the way I think about the 1601, maybe this is what I would call the short narrative here. 1601 is about moving even faster in space. 1601 is about accelerating deployment of new capabilities. I mean if there's today like there was one thing to take away from all the stuff that we talk about, 1601 Report Space Force is about accelerating the deployment of new capability whether it's assets or whether it's people but it's about accelerating that deployment.
1601 is also about leveraging -- and I was quite surprised but there is tremendous amount of alignment around the space force so here within the building, with Congress, with the Executive Branch, and we can get into if we want, what are the differences? But if you drew a Venn diagram of the interests and the focus, it would be about 90 percent in terms of common interest.
The other thing that I would say about the 1601 report is it really -- really leverages off staying aligned on strategy. The beautiful thing about it and I love the way the Department has been working this in terms of the National Defense Strategy. We put the National Defense Strategy on the shelf back in February. We said we're done talking about strategy, now it's about execution.
So this is really about executing the National Defense Strategy even more quickly. And then there's a caveat that goes along with all of this and that is this is -- this is a really important one and part of this is I can hear my dad kind of whispering in my ear, "Don't screw anything up because as you well know, there are extensive military operations going on throughout the world right now and they're heavily reliant on space."
So as we go about making these changes, you know the first principal of change management is do no harm. Change, you know we'll hear as we, you know, roll forward making changes to the organization to how we do an acquisition, how we do technology development. We'll hear the normal, "Oh this is not going to work" or "this is a problem" or "we can't do that" or "this hasn't been done in the past." That's normal, we'd expect that but what isn't normal is to degrade any level of performance or any level of support that we're providing to the war fighter today.
I want to pause before we dive into the report. Is there any comments?
STAFF: I would just make two really quick comments. As we reviewed the urgency of the question about how we defend our assets in space and deter activities in space that would threaten those assets, we just heard the secretary say the key thing that the joint chiefs focused on and that is make sure that as we migrate from one structure to another, that we address the current equities of war fighters.
And it is based -- is it based upon that premise that we made the recommendation and the secretary accepted it that we accelerate the standup of a unified command for space, that we not necessarily go through all the intermediate steps of a sub-unified command and grind through what those authorities might look like but that we actually stand up a group that would look at what the authority's responsibilities and missions of a unified space command would be and how quickly we could execute those.
So that work is in progress and that accelerates us on this pathway to getting at the appropriate defense of assets that we depend on in space and keeping those assets connected to the war fighters who today depend on them to get the work they're doing done and do no harm in that space.
MR. SHANAHAN: And an earlier version of the report we were going to put in an extra step of having a sub-unified command and General Selva was like, "We don't need that extra step. We can take the full step and accelerate that portion on the plan." I'll come back unless it's like super clarifying.
Q: Are we each going to get to ask questions, there's so many of us, there's only 35 minutes. Maybe we can ask questions about other parts of the report and that way it will meet all of our interests.
MR. SHANAHAN: I'm going to go through the report. We'll get to those questions but I'd really like to make sure -- I spent a lot of weekends writing the report so I want to like talk about it. But I know you -- you all have lots of questions but there are just a couple things I want to just emphasize and I'll speed along. You guys OK with that? OK.
I think somebody wrote the deputy and the secretary weren't involved in the report and I was like, "Man, I was here a lot of weekends."
Then we'll go to -- if you had to pick a page out of the report to read, page 6 is the money page, page 4 these are the immediate steps, if you just go to page four. Those five bullets, those are the things we're going to take action on immediately. In terms of the threat, I think we all know that it's evolving; there's not a lot to discuss there.
I think the -- on the next page and I'm just in for the speed readers here, page 5, the space force is an enabler to the National Defense Strategy and I highlighted critical modernization efforts and space is -- space capability allows us to accelerate the deployment of these capabilities. And you know it's just very critical as we're moving forward with this that people understand this is about executing on the National Defense Strategy. It's not just about standing up a space force.
Space force is about concentrating resources so we can go faster. All right the money page, page 6. This is the most important section and it really centers on the outcomes of the capability development that we want to realize. So think of this as a roadmap. This is how we will retire risk, build standards, grow capacity, and incrementally deploy National Defense Strategy modernization key capabilities that I referenced on the previous page.
The space force isn't just about space. It has significant interaction and overlap with the technologies that the research and engineering led by Mike -- Dr. Mike Griffin. So there is real integration overlap with you know, say hypersonic vehicles. We will talk about space but it's really important the hypersonic glide vehicles. It's very important how it's integrated into the different service portfolios.
We're going to talk about the real need for horizontal integration. People will say like, each of the services need their own equities but if we were going to harmonize the infrastructure across the department, having a horizontal integration approach to infrastructure, ground station, pick the piece of important critical infrastructure, it's very important that we have standards and that we're able to scale that infrastructure.
And then also there's a real tie to the Missile Defense Agency but we're -- why this is so important is this is our roadmap and then it's what will shape our -- our 2020 plan that we will submit over to OMB at the end of this year. So that's -- that's where so much of this will manifest itself.
If we skip ahead to page eight, space development agency and this where when we get into Q&A I think it will be good because everybody will say like well, what's going to happen to space and missile command in Los Angeles.
And it's still going to be there. So we'll tell you. We can go through kind of some of those things. But, you know, the under change -- and I'll just call your attention to this. These are three big changes we want to drive through the space development agency.
Leverage commercial space. Commercial space is the new NASA. It's very important we leverage off the work and investment that's been done there. We -- the second one is that we really get back to being more of a developmental mindset than an acquisition mindset.
OK, you know, regain our technical chops. And then lastly, decouple from so much of the acquisition process that drives so many reviews, so many checks and balances. There's -- you know when you have the technical -- the real technical abilities, you don't need as much review.
You don't need as much oversight. You don't need as much interaction. And we've demonstrated the ability to do that before. Second paragraph there, this isn't a new model. Therefore, it's already demonstrates this with its rapid capabilities office so it's more about a scaled approach.
And then fourth bullet under priorities is a real emphasis for us and its expanding industrial base. On the next page I just call out the last sentence in the first paragraph. This characterizes a lot of our approach to commercial space.
Commercial space industry will have a greater role as commercial and government entities move toward the center on requirements regulation and compliance. I've done work both in the military, industrial complex in the commercial and we've made leveraging commercial technology too complicated and this is really about making that easier.
When we talk about SMC, the -- General Thompson down there has done a terrific job of moving out. He wasn't waiting for us to drop a report to talk about the things we were going to change.
About last January he moved out, recognizing that there were things that could be restructured and they could reposition the SMC to go more quickly and we can go through that.
But when we talk about next steps standing up the space development agency; the four items that are highlighted in bullets are really important. You know, what are the cost today? What work's being done? How do we like not get disconnected from the classified programs?
We're not going to just, you know, snap a chalk line and say, you know, break things apart or something. This is really more about how do we generate the technical capability and the systems engineering capabilities.
We can go faster on our road map. Almost home free. One -- another one I'd really call out is on page ten. This is really important in terms of space operations forces. It's not about just standing up to space operations forces.
It's about deploying them out to the COCOM when they run their exercises because their real role is to facilitate experimentation and innovation. So it's not as much as that they have the skills but that they partner COCOMS in these exercises to demonstrate these are the innovative capabilities that we can produce with space technology.
Page 11, services and supports. When we talk about overhead or standing up a department or having a separate branch. My boss Mick Mulvaney, the President - the boss, every time I see him they're like don't add any overhead.
Make sure whatever you do adds value. So you know there's not a sprint of create big headquarters or high chaplains or lawyers. It's really about capability and as you stand up capability, make sure you have the right support.
So that's -- that's been the big focus of our -- our plan to stand up with space force. We'll let the -- well I'm going to ask for space command and then maybe to get offstage I'll just end back up with one thing I'm lucky to take away from this -- this -- this briefing is that it's really about accelerating new capability.
So with that we can do questions. Does that sound good?
Q: (off mic)
MR. SHANAHAN: I know the number exactly and I'll be able to give it you after -- probably about November just because we have to put together a legislative proposal. So really what this is -- this report was always focused on is delivering no capability.
So this is a two stepper when you think about the space force; focus on this new capability that we can pretty much do within all our authorities and budget for the most part. OK. So there's not like there's a bill that comes with that.
But to do some of the other things of a sixth branch, that really gets in that we have to figure out. What are the elements of it and you saw their -- you know we say identify all the cost associated it.
We've got to find out who's where and what are the cost there and then if we were to move them or treat them differently, there's a bill that goes with that. And then if you're to wrap around that, you know, overhead or structure.
So, you know, my sense is we'll put something like that together this year. And it'll probably look like this. Your options, you're going to have, you know, something that's very extensive.
You're going to have something that's you know -- you know, medium but those are the thing -- those are the real important details that -- that follow.
Q: So you don't know what the consequences of what you're saying?
MR. SHANAHAN: We're saying that the cost associated with standing up the additional structure, we'll probably know by the end of the year. We haven't done that cost estimation yet.
Q: I have a quick question. A lot of people look at this and see that space command is a -- stays like special operations and they can see how that works and they can see how that works well.
What was it that made you decide that -- how do you set a course or way to go instead of just stopping at space operations commands and operations forces. Even though I think you’re the right person for the job.
MR. SHANAHAN: That's a great question. You know I'm at almost 39 years of service and we don't normally stay past 40. Although, in rare cases they do. But if you look at my pedigree, I'm actually the wrong person. So I've spent my life doing logistics transportation and complex networks on the surface. And the person you need to do this is a person that understands the physics and the war fighting capabilities that are acquired in space.
And while I can talk about them from a technical perspective because I did grow up an engineer, I'm actually not the right person to do that task. But I'm honored that you would think I am the right person.
But I think kind of -- kind of along the line your question is why concentrate exclusively around a space command. Is that?
Q: No I -- I understand the space command part. I understand how it relates to special operations and I understand how it relates with cyber command. How -- the -- the joke that I'm missing is what made you decide that having a separate force, not just space operations forces, but a space force is the best way to go?
MR. SHANAHAN: To go faster, it's speed.
Q: (off mic)
MR. SHANAHAN: Well let's see, so, Steve, on the standing up of the space command. So imagine today General Raymond goes to -- he's part of General Hyten's organization.
Do you think if he was not part of General Hyten's organization he'd be able to go faster in terms of developing, you know, what are the right authorities for the space mission to develop doctrine or the TTPs?
Q: No, no, I mean, I'm asking why is that important because – is it because a threat or something special, a new threat to the armed force and it requires National Security Act and a lot of rigmarole it was deemed necessary to create a separate force.
I think I'm --
GEN Selva: I think you're both coming at the issue from just sort of two different perspectives. The -- the stand up of a U.S. space command is the expedited method to get authorities responsibilities and actual activities in place as quickly as possible.
And that provides a four star who is responsible and accountable for tactics, techniques, procedures, training, and management of forces and will have a voice in requirements very much like the Special Operations Command model.
And you heard the vice president talk about that in his speech this morning. It is a bridge to the vision that the administration has of a single force that organize, trains and equips that community of interest that does space.
Today every service has a voice in how their space officers are trained. It is true that the bulk of those officers happen to wear this uniform. But it is not true that all of the space expertise in the department is in the Air Force.
So the vision that the president has articulated is that we build a legislative proposal that would get at how you collect that community of interest, how you build -- he even talked about it in his speech this morning, scaling the manpower and the talent so that we can accelerate our ability to deploy and employ capabilities in space.
And so I would say it's a two step process. Getting the combatant command right so that we have the war fighter that's going to do this work, that's actually going to do command and control of forces, defense and deterrence in space is a critical step.
The balance of the work in formulating the legislative proposal for what a service or a department might look like is work to be done. The president's articulated his vision and said he wants us to that work, and we'll get after it as fast as we can.
But the detail of what is that force precisely going to look like, this report gives us a road map to how we get there. It doesn't actually say precisely what that force looks like and that shouldn't be the expectation.
So, Steve, you're right in part, it's going to take some time to work this through the congress. If we get it in one year, it'll be unprecedented. It took nearly five years of debate in the congress to stand up SOCOM.
Q: (off mic)
MR. SHANAHAN: No, no, I'm with you. Yes.
Q: I'm asking about the space force.
Q: To follow on that up, what does this mean then for Air Force Space Command which already has responsibility for multiple things, GPS satellites, rockets, that ability to be absorbed into this overall space force.
So what happens to that?
MR. SHANAHAN: So the first steps are you make sure that you do no harm to admissions that are being accomplished today. So in that legislative proposal, in that organizational structure, we have to sit down and determine how we're going to migrate those missions from where they are to where they will land.
All that will be subject to the consent of Congress. So yes, GPS is but one example. There are 140, give or take a few, satellites in our constellation today. Most of them managed by Air Force Space Command but not all.
Many managed by other agencies, some uniformed, some not. Those questions would have to be asked and answered. So it's a great question. If I -- if I could tell you sitting here today how we plan to migrate from one to the next, then we would have the solution and a legislative proposal ready.
What the vice president said this morning was get at the business of getting the legislative proposal ready. So we know we have a February deadline to have that worked out.
Q: And then just as a follow up on your message to the Senate. If there's a separate space force you envision separate from our -- our Air Force, our Navy, they don't train with purpose, they don't train with other nations. Are you seeing a day and time where this space force will go train partner space forces in other countries?
And if you’re in space and operating, how do you differentiate between exploratory objects such as NASA satalites for international space station and what the space force would do?
Are there -- there points -- pain points I guess in a country for how potential peers or competitors might treat working IFS because of the space force creation.
MR. SHANAHAN: So there are very likely pain points, I don't know what they are at this instance. So -- but it is not without precedent that we spend -- that we send space operators out to train with the allied forces and with partner forces.
We do it all the time. Right now they're -- they're principally managed through the Air Force, although it's not uncommon for Navy SPAWARs to send a training unit out to train with ally or partner.
So that -- there is precedent for that work, it's just not designated a space force or even a space operating force. It's an independent sort of relationship that exists either in a service or through a contractual element of a contractor that's providing support.
So we have those relationships today. I don't -- I can't precisely tell you how they play out if you collect all those people into one service. There's part of me that says it's a much cleaner relationship, certainly with a -- with a combatant commander who represents those relationships to the other combatant commanders as an equal and to our allies and partners as a subject matter expert who has command and control authorities over that constellation.
But I'm -- but I'm having -- given that it's a hypothetical question, I don't know where all the pain points are. There certainly will be some.
Q: Not hypothetical, what does happen to the space command any factor (inaudible)?
MR. SHANAHAN: Tony...
Q: -- 85 percent of a Pentagon space (inaudible).
MR. SHANAHAN: Yes, I -- I -- I'd look at -- these are the discussions that, you know, I've had with General Thompson, probably for eight months now. How do we evolve the SMC. So you'll -- I don't know if many of you are familiar with his initiative down there, SMC 2.0. So a big portion of his initiative has been really to look at three elements of how the SMC conducts its operations.
So the first has really been around how do we really develop a different front end, in terms of being able to do systems engineering. And then for many of the programs on contract, how do we streamline those programs in terms of being run like product lines. And then for the industrial base, how does he reshape who he partners with and expands the number of -- of companies and -- and contractors that he's doing business with.
So he's made kind of the -- the first move to start the restructure, I think. The next turn of this is, against that roadmap, how do we want to organize.
Q: But the agency. Is it a separate agency or will SMC become that agency once it is created?
MR. SHANAHAN: I think it's going to be a carve out.
Q: What does that mean?
MR. SHANAHAN: That means we're going to take resources that exist in the SMC, I think we're going to take resources from other parts of the department and put those together.
Q: Into the separate agency.
MR. SHANAHAN: Into the separate agency.
Q: All right. Accelerating -- you keep saying accelerating. You know that this department's history on accelerating space programs has been cost overruns, delays and failure. You were on the missile defense program for Boeing back in 2004 timeframe. You know all the criticism from the White House received for accelerating their program. For things like the disaster known as GPS III and others. Why should we have any faith that your accelerating is going to lead to some better results than this trail of failure of your previous space programs?
MR. SHANAHAN: I'm not the acquirer but I think it -- how -- I'll tell you where the difference is. And that's the front-end conversations about systems integration and connection to the war fighter. All right? So if you think about all of the systems you just described, each was essentially developed in a hermetically sealed environment.
AHF was to solve a very specific problem. It wasn't connected to the other systems. GPS III solves a specific set of problems. All right? But they're very high end problems. Right? How do you -- I'll just give you a couple that are now fairly widely known. How do you boost the power of the signal to get after jamming? All right? Your GPS empowered devices will not work in a -- in a relatively modest jamming environment. All I have to do is overpower the signal.
So we have to have the military capacity to get at GPS. So we have to be able to boost the signal. How do you encrypt the signal so that we know the signal we're receiving hasn't been tampered with? All right? Those are all things that had to be built in a GPS III. Those were not trivial requirements from a technology perspective when we started that program. What's changed, what they give us the capacity to accelerate now is the entrance of multiple commercial satellite developers who have found more efficient and effective ways to develop satellites.
What's also changed is the fact that the large commercial providers -- the large military providers have proven power buses that we can adapt to other capabilities. So what with the work that was done for AHF in Sibbers, for example, to produce the power bus that hosts those payloads is now adaptable to other capabilities.
What we haven't had the vision to do in the past is actually take advantage of both of those parallel efforts, the proven business on the military side, rapidly deployable and advancing commercial technologies. So there are commercial companies that are building $10 million satellites and giving them a $1.5 million dollar ride to lower earth orbit.
How many military systems have done that in the last two decades? I think the number's zero. So the ability to have the capacity to experiment in that segment of the industry and look for the things that can be deployed for military utility or can be purchased for military utility -- and there's a difference -- that gives us the ability to accelerate.
And in the environment we're in today, we have to have that speed. So if -- if there is promise in a space development agency, it's that you have a set of technical experts that are thinking about this problem from a systems integration perspective and all systems are fair game. So how do you integrate all those systems together? And if going fast gets us that capability and gets us in an assured way, sign me up.
But your point is well taken. Our history in doing this is every time we set a requirement, we bolt onto that one successful program, everything we wish we could have. We can't let that happen in this particular effort. Because if we do, we'll be back where we started. And so that's where I see promise in this -- in this notion of a -- of a development agency that is populated with people who understand how to do systems integration.
Q: Thanks. Do you support the creation of a sixth service? Secretary Mattis doesn’t.
MR. SHANAHAN: This is the way I've been kind of thinking about that. Because the way I got into the 1601 report writing business was chairmen Rogers and Cooper were saying let's go look at a space corps. Because we need to get after threat and deliver capability more quickly. And the conversation went like this. Let's focus on what it is we need to improve and then we'll decide on what's the appropriate structure.
Whether we call it a space corps or a department or a sixth branch, I think this goes to the next step, working with Congress and building on -- and I think Steve, this is where you're going -- demonstrate that the cost generates the value, and that there is true benefit. The -- we even showed tonight the benefit of the space command. We can show -- Tony and I -- I think General Selva did a -- a masterful job of talking about the risk reduction that's occurred as a result of the investment in commercial space, that we should be adopting that because not everything has to be bespoke.
But there's real value that we can generate through the space development agency. And Jenna, you may want to share your example of how SOCOM was formed and why it creates real value. And we'll get to the -- the department piece of this, but maybe the genesis of this thinking around space operations forces.
MR. SHANAHAN: So you heard the vice president's reference in his speech to Desert One, and following that incident in, I think it was 1979, early 1980. Well, he ended up with about five years worth of debate how best to organize our special operating forces. And again, each of the forces, impressive in their own right, but not integrated.
And it was a fight and there were people in this building that said, hey, command is the wrong answer, it's not the right way to do this, we need the combatant commanders to be in charge, not a single special operations command commander. But in the end, the model we landed on was a four star commander who has authorities to integrate and has authorities and responsibilities -- and this is important -- through tactics, techniques, procedures, training and standardization.
So that when you integrated those four service special operating forces into a single force to do a joint job, they actually would be able to do it. So our initial shot at this is, we haven't had a failure in space. This isn't about what the Air Force has or hasn't done in space, or the Army or the R&D or the Marine Corps, because all of them have space operators. It's about being able to integrate all of those capabilities together so that there is a standard community from which you draw the capacity to do this work in space.
And that's why I say I'm not the right person to your earlier question. I didn't grow up with Kepler, I grew up with Newton. People that do this work in space have to understand that physics. They have to understand the tactics, techniques and procedures in great depth and building that community is really important.
And if you look across the department today, you will find roughly 18,000 people, minus the ones that are in the intelligence community that are actually doing actual space work. About 18,000. That's a around number. There are another several thousand, which is why the vice president said there are tens of thousands, and if you count all the contractors, you're in the multiple tens of thousands. But people wearing uniforms or actual employees of the Defense Department, relatively small number.
We have nurture that talent pool and build it into a core -- a core -- C-O-R-E, not C-O-R-P-S, a core of people what had the expertise to provide the advice and actually operate the capabilities in space. So that's a really important transition. And so that gets to the question of, what does that look like?
And if I knew the answer this instant, I would tell you. It is the reason that we're standing up a team to look at the legislative proposal for what a service -- separate service might look like, because that's what the president has asked us to do, and it's our obligation to deliver to him a set of legislative proposals that make some sense. And so we have to get at that, that's our obligation.
I wear this uniform, he's the commander in chief, he's asked us to do it, we're going to do it. It'll be the best product we know how to develop. But it gets to that issue of, can you build the body of expertise and nurture that body of expertise overtime, however big or small it's that guards this national treasure in space. So I said there's about 140 satellites? One hundred and forty satellites on orbit, about 30 of them generate trillions of dollars of economic output.
That's just the GPS constellation, and I'm only talking about military satellites. So we have to protect the rest of the constellations too, but we have to make sure that all of those things that empower our force that's in a fight today are not interrupted. And again, that's why the migration. Combatant command first, legislative proposal for what the force might look like that gets us to a place where we nurture and husband the capability that is the human capital that behind this force.
And again, I don't know precisely what that looks like. If we did, I think we did tell you. What we have is an obligation to produce that framework, that set of options that we can take to the Hill and allow that debate to play out.
Q: So how much did the JICSPOC, and -- I'll just get the acronym wrong...
MR. SHANAHAN: National Space Defense Center?
Q: Thank you very much -- leads to conclusion that we needed a space command. Can you give us any examples that made people go hmm? And on the other side, the NRO and GAA, NSA are a huge part of space acquisition. Are they going to be more closely integrated than they currently are? How are you going to approach that as one operation?
MR. SHANAHAN: So, for those of you that know about the National Space Defense Center, knew that it operates through a unity of effort, not a unity of command model. All the participants, including all those agencies you just talked about are represented and operate at the appropriate level of classification.
Q: So you don't think that will change?
MR. SHANAHAN: I don't see that changing in the near term, but what you have is a four star that -- that would be responsible and accountable for the activities of the National Space Defense Center. Today, that's buried two layers deep. It's a sub-unified joint force component commander under a combatant command that's neither resident nor approximate to the actual center itself. So I think there's a migration that would happen there, but it would retain, I think, in the near to midterm, the unity of effort model that we have going on right now. And I'm going to apologize, because I just got tapped on the shoulder and told I need get across the hall. I'll come back as quick as I can.
Q: And how about the acquisition part of that? How much do you expect that to sort of be mellowed into this new agency, or do you expect the NRO to pretty much (inaudible)?
MR. SHANAHAN: Well, that will be step two. The interesting thing about working here in the Department of Defense is, if you try to do too much, you'll get nothing done. And to me, the Title X, Title L and all those discussions has -- I think it plays back to Tony's comment, well, if you haven't had success, why would someone hook their wagon to where you're going. The general some have described how much leverage there is through modularization and the integration of commercial space.
That's the nut we're trying to crack. And the nut there is, if it's already developed, why do you have the extensive requirements process. And we know that a lot of that isn't necessary. So that's the piece very quickly, and that's why we've taken this stair- step approach to delivering capability. We can knock out a lot of those processes very quickly. And I think Tony, in the back of all of our minds is, the thing we want to avoid is making giant leaps of faith.
Q: Leads to failure?
MR. SHANAHAN: Yes, and I think what you'll see in that first step on our road map, it really is about the integration of the commercial side of space. And there are processes that -- where this -- this environment will reject, using, you know, either those technologies, certain companies, and we've got to push through that.
It's -- I think that's there the value is, and then not having to go back through, you know, these very extensive requirement processes that take years. This is -- this is about how do you take, you know, things that take six or seven years to (date ?), which, when you look at the real work that's being done, it's not doing the engineering work, it's not doing the systems engineering work, it's really doing the acquisition, managing the acquisition process. And we can divorce ourselves from a lot of that.
STAFF: We're on 45 minutes now. We have one last question.
Q: You said you didn’t know what this would cost. I’ll ask you again, how much is this all going to cost?
MR. SHANAHAN: That was -- that was the tongue and cheek, and then -- and then I realized I probably shouldn't say that. We don't -- we haven't. I mean, it was like -- the cost piece of this comes next, right. So ...
Q: What is it, billions? Or is it millions?
MR. SHANAHAN: Well, I assume it's billions, right. I mean, here's how I think about the cost piece of this, and this -- what's that?
Q: (off mic)
MR. SHANAHAN: Yes -- no, no, it's the -- and I was thinking about this. This -- my -- so on my anchor back to my experience with Aerospace, somebody will come along and they'll say, "We want to develop, you know, a composite aircraft," or they'll say, "We want to go change the business." And so, the president had said "We want to stand up new capability."
And the first thing that we've done here, and the department has said, "Move out on things that you know you can improve on tonight. Don't wait a day on -- on putting in place good ideas." And then on the bigger vision, "Don't reject the vision. Go to work on what does it take to accomplish."
And that gets back to these things around schedule, cost, resources, and you know, Steve, I think this is where you were going. Now you have -- now you have to demonstrate that you're creating value. And so, back to Secretary Mattis, if you -- if -- when he made his comments -- those were over a year ago, right?
The timing -- the timing's very important because they're facing another CR with budget comps and if you said to him, "Do you want to add more overhead or structure," and we're going through a significant belt tightening exercise, you'd say, "Right now, I want to deliver," -- and this is part of the national defense strategy -- "more lethality, deliver as much warfighting capability as possible."
And that really gives the spirit of comments, and that's really the spirit that you see here in the building.
People get an allergic reaction to adding overhead or unnecessary bureaucracy. Now if I -- you know, I've been with the president a number of times. He is -- he always hammers on me, "Are you taking cost out? Are you reducing unnecessary regulations? Are you reducing bureaucracy?" So, you know, our challenge is, you know, how do you concentrate. It's very much like cyber. Cyber is a new domain that we're competing. Space will be a new domain that we compete in. How do we concentrate the resources in the most effective manner and deliver real warfighting capabilities as soon as possible.
I think, as Secretary Mattis said this morning, "It's now a contested environment, and that's the fundamental change, and we've got to reposition ourselves to address that."
Q: Are you going to ...
STAFF: OK. Thank you, we're out of time today.
MR. SHANAHAN: You know, the question was, are we going rework the plan. We've got a number of changes made -- to take in the plan. It's good. Thanks, everybody.
STAFF: Thank you all. We'll make it a point, to get you a copy of the audio and the transcript as well. OK, so I'll bring -- e-mail you a copy...