Trump's Space Command nominee warns of 'substantial' set-up challenges

Trump's Space Command nominee warns of 'substantial' set-up challenges
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The Trump administration’s nominee to lead its new U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) warned lawmakers on Tuesday there would be “substantial” challenges in standing up such an arm of the military. 

Air Force Gen. John Raymond, who currently serves as head of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, made his way easily through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee with little pushback or calls to explain the details of how the Pentagon plans to stand up the new combatant command. The task is expected to cost millions and require hundreds of personnel to transfer from other areas of the military.

The Air Force’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, for example, asks for nearly $84 million to start SPACECOM. 

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“If confirmed, my first priority will be to ensure the seamless transition of the command and control of critical space capabilities that the nation and the joint force depend on each-and-every day," he wrote in response to questions from lawmakers, released during the hearing. "Simultaneously we need to ensure we take steps to strengthen readiness and lethality as we complete our shift from a permissive environment to a posture for warfighting.”

Raymond also said in his written responses that a group of about 642 personnel from U.S. Strategic Command will be needed to initially stand up SPACECOM.

The four-star general was asked about growing threats posed by Russia and China. He warned the two nations were developing new weapons capable of interfering with or destroying U.S. space-based systems.

“Russia is making considerable gains, and our operational advantage is shrinking,” Raymond said. “Russia is developing a full range of counterspace capabilities to include electronic warfare, directed energy, cyber threats, sophisticated on-orbit threats, and direct ascent missiles.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE in March nominated Raymond to lead the new combatant command, part of its broader efforts to increase the military’s focus on space. The administration also hopes to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the military and Raymond’s confirmation would jump-start the process.

“Establishing [Space Command] is a critical step that underscores the importance of the space domain and its strategic contributions to U.S. national security,” the Pentagon said in an announcement at the time. “The [Space Command] establishment will accelerate our space capabilities to address the rapidly evolving threats to U.S. space systems, and the importance of deterring potential adversaries from putting critical U.S. space systems at risk."

If confirmed by the full Senate, Raymond would take on the new combatant command in addition to his duties as head of Air Force Space Command.