Space Force reimagines training, operations as conflicts intensify | Space

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After four years of growth amid a steadily rising operational tempo, Space Force leaders say it’s time to improve on what they’ve built.

The Space Force is the Pentagon’s hub for organizing, training and equipping the units that provide satellite communications to the joint force, track missile launches, catalog debris that could damage spacecraft, take images of troop movements and wildfires from orbit, and more.

But as the newest service has taken shape — pulling together soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and fresh recruits to form the military’s smallest branch — the growing importance of space in global security has highlighted the need for a flexible, collaborative workforce for the decades to come.

“I’m extremely proud of the Space Force and all the good that it has accomplished,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said Feb. 13 at an Air and Space Forces Association conference in Colorado. “But as good as we are, as much as we’ve done, as far as we’ve come — it’s not enough.”

The service hit its congressionally authorized staffing goal — about 13,900 billets overall — for the first time in 2023.

As of Dec. 31, the Space Force employed around 4,400 officers, 4,600 enlisted guardians and 4,900 civilians. The service plans to expand to 14,526 members, including 9,400 in uniform, in fiscal 2024.

Each year, that number creeps closer to the 16,000 personnel the Pentagon estimated the Space Force would reach as it lobbied Congress to create a lean new service in 2019.

Katharine Kelley, the Space Force’s civilian personnel boss, predicts “steady-state growth” that allows the service to keep up with operational needs without stressing the training pipeline or setting unattainable…

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