The Space Force is starting to come into its own and that means keeping its promise to become the nation’s first digital military service.
Since the beginning of the new branch, Air Force and Space Force officials have touted it as a child of the digital age that is fully enmeshed in coding, cybersecurity, data and artificial intelligence.
In its second year of existence, the service has begun implementing programs and initiatives to execute its digital strategy.
“The Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Air Force, they were born in an industrial age,” said Col. Charles Galbreath, Space Force’s deputy chief technology officer and innovation officer, at Federal News Network’s second annual DoD Cloud Exchange. “As a result, they have evolved over time to develop and incorporate digital capabilities. The Space Force was born into this digital age. We have that as part of our fabric.”
Moving from strategy to training Space Force guardians
Last summer, Space Force released a strategy of tenets and values to inform the ways it will train guardians, operate and acquire systems.
That strategy now has real-world implications, Galbreath said.
“There are people in the Space Force and government that have a variety, a spectrum if you will, of knowledge about what it is to be digital,” Galbreath said. “We wanted to try to raise everybody’s overall understanding of some digital terminology. That puts us all on more of a level playing field about the terms and concepts that are essential to being a digital service.”
One way the service is doing that is through the education of the force.
“We’re rolling out things like Digital University courses, software development, immersive pipelines, etc. to train and educate our workforce so that they are ready to operate in a digital environment,” Galbreath said. “We’ve brought together a set of training modules. There’s actually over 23,000 different training modules from industry leading experts that provide training about artificial intelligence, about cybersecurity, about data, etc. We’ve culminated these into this pipeline through the Digital University, we’ve even gone a little further and said, ‘There are sets of courses that we think would be ideal for guardians.’”
The Digital University bills itself as a way to build out careers and make guardians force multipliers for the service.
The Space Force is also using recruitment to fill out its ranks with digitally savvy people. With an end strength of about 16,000, the service has the luxury of expecting more from the people it brings on.
“I would expect a guardian to have a higher level of data fluency or digital fluency or familiarity than an Army infantry man, or actually any other service. We believe we’re going to be much more technically attuned than any other service,” Galbreath said. “But it’s not like we can say, ‘Here’s the baseline. That if you know these five things, you’re set for the rest of the existence of Space Force.’ It’s going to evolve over time. I would expect 10, 20, 30 years from now, the guardians that are coming in, who are definitely born digital natives, they will come in with a much higher level of digital fluency than we do now.”
All-digital approach driven by data
Space Force will use those people for things like digital engineering and what Galbreath called digital headquarters.
“You’ve got the people. Now you need the tools to operate within this digital environment, and while digital engineering certainly has a tie to an acquisition side or the development capability, we like to think of it as an entire end-to-end ecosystem,” he said.
The goal is to do everything from design to testing to programming and budgeting, all in the digital world.
Finally, Galbreath said digital headquarters will make Space Force a more effective and efficient service.
“We’re thinking about any level within Space Force where decisions are made, we want to make data-driven decisions that are informed in a collaborative way and maximize the utility of the resources that we have available to us,” he said.
All of these elements will culminate in digital operations through which Space Force will deliver its mission to project power and support teams on the ground.
To listen to and watch all the sessions from the 2022 Federal News Network DoD Cloud Exchange, go to the event page.