Planetary Radio • Jan 10, 2020

Space Policy Edition: Houston, We Have a Space Force (with Brian Weeden)

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20180706 brian weeden

Dr. Brian Weeden

Director of Program Planning for Secure World Foundation

Casey dreier tps mars

Casey Dreier

Chief of Space Policy for The Planetary Society

Kaplan mat headshot 0114a print

Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

Legislation signed by President Trump in December formally established the 6th branch of the U.S. armed services, the first such expansion in 72 years. What exactly will the new Space Force do? How big of a deal is this? What does this mean for the militarization of space? Dr. Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation joins the show to help us answer those questions.

DSCS III satellite
DSCS III satellite Illustration of the Defense Satellite Communications System III (DSCS III) satellite.Image: USAF


Mat Kaplan: [00:00:00] Welcome back everyone and welcome to a brand new year of the Space Policy Edition of Planetary Radio. I'm Mat Kaplan, the host for Planetary Radio. Joined again by the Chief Advocate of the Planetary Society, Casey Dreier. Casey, happy new year to you.

Casey Dreier: Happy new year, Mat. Happy to be with you for 2020 and technically the end of the decade. Though obviously most people will consider this the start of a new decade.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: Don't talk to me. Year zero people. I know.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: But the, uh, significant digit has changed, it's the 2020s now. So yeah, a happy time to be talking with you about space. It's going to be an interesting decade ahead.

Mat Kaplan: So are you one of those who like me, you get this little twinge when people say this is the ... We've just gone into a new decade. When really it's [00:01:00] a year away? [laughs]

Casey Dreier: Uh, yeah, I know. I, I go back and forth, like conceptually I know it. Uh, but also it's way more convenient just to say, "Hey, the digit changed and let's, uh ..." Year zero that didn't happen.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: That was 2000, 20 years ago. So for rounding sake, I'm a decade man.

Mat Kaplan: Well however you feel about the calendar decade, we are now well into the fiscal year of 2020. And I know that's something that you want to talk about once we get through our initial housekeeping comments. Uh, you knew it was coming. We weren't going to let you escape from this, folks. It's time to consider becoming a member of the Planetary Society at Because if you are enjoying Space Policy Edition ... And thank you to all of you who write to us and tell us how much you enjoy this monthly portion of the show. But also e- everything that we do every week with Planetary Radio. Well for that matter, all the good work that, uh, you, [00:02:00] you compliment us for that the Planetary Society does, why don't you become a part of it? You can stand behind all of this by going to and, uh, join in the tens of thousands of others around the world who are using that membership to stand behind everything Casey does, everything that the society does.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. If you can afford a cup of coffee a month at the store or at a Starbucks, you can afford to be a member of the Planetary Society. So I, I think it's a pretty good deal.

Mat Kaplan: We've got one other deal that's still underway, but this may be the last time that we can make this offer at least on the Space Policy Edition. And Casey, that is, well it's almost here now. Your Day of Action.

Casey Dreier: It is. The Day of [laughing] Action is, uh, February 10th in Washington, DC. We have training on the 9th. And that's the day that members of the Planetary Society from around the United States come together. And we, in groups, meet with congressional representatives to talk about space exploration. Why we need it, [00:03:00] why it's important, and to advocate for further investment in NASA and space science and exploration. It's a really fun experience. We set up your meetings, we give you training, and then you go out and just share your passion for space. So we're over 100, uh, members of the Planetary Society will already be there. We have many more who've signed up. If you can't make it to Washington, DC, we have a way to participate remotely so you can sign up and pledge to take action on the same day with your fellow members online. It's a great experience and, if you want to check it out. Register. We have a couple more days from when this is going to be posted that you can register early and save a few bucks.

Uh, but you can register as late as February 3rd to participate with us. So I hope you consider joining us either in person or online for the Day of Action. For folks outside the United States, you can pledge to take action remotely. So you can go to the same website, There's a link there, pledge remotely. You [00:04:00] can sign up and we'll give you actions to take to help our members in DC and to just help spread the word about the importance of investment in space. So anyone can take action with us. Again, February 10th, 2020.

Mat Kaplan: And I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here, but I got to see a prototype design for the Day of Action T-shirt, which is being put together by our colleague Andrew. Uh, it's making me feel even worse than I don't think I'm going to be able to be there because at that ... It's such a cool T-shirt and I guess that's part of the deal?

Casey Dreier: If you were there in person, you do get a T-shirt as part of your registration. So Mat, uh, you, you might be able to pull a few strings. Mat, you might be able to get one-

Mat Kaplan: God if, if only I knew-

Casey Dreier: ... even though you weren't there.

Mat Kaplan: ... someone. [laughs]

Casey Dreier: [laughs] Well, you have to know them well and they have to like you, right?

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: So that's the trick. We'll, we'll work on that.

Mat Kaplan: Two strikes.

Casey Dreier: [crosstalk 00:04:50].

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: [laughs] But yeah, no, it, it's, it's part of the deal. It's a cool shirt. And every state that's represented there gets listed on the back. We have [00:05:00] 27 States, members coming from 27 states of the United States. I'm looking forward to it. It's great. It's exhausting to put together. But it's one of the most important things we can do as an organization. Is to show up, occupy time and presence, and share your passion as individuals. That's the power of the Planetary Society, right? We don't benefit directly from advocating for space. We don't get extra money from the government. We don't get contracts. You as members of the Planetary Society, for the most part, are just regular people who love space. So the only thing that we get out of this effort is that joy of exploration, seeing the pictures come back. The satisfaction of seeing humanity do some of the best things they can possibly do. Which is peacefully explore and work together to understand the cosmos at a deeper level. What, what better thing to go and share your passion for with members of Congress?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, it's such a great opportunity. And you get to see [00:06:00] the effectiveness of it, uh, as you, as you talk to people and then, uh, read the news. Uh, read about budget developments that Casey will be talking about all year, of course. And know that, uh, your participation in the Day of Action actually had a hand in making good things happen for the NASA budget, for all of, uh, space exploration. It's exciting stuff. You know what we haven't done, Casey?

Casey Dreier: What's that?

Mat Kaplan: Is, uh, tease your interview. The return of your previous guest, Brian Weeden. Uh, and I know you want to talk about the budget first, but we're going to talk about Space Force, right? With Brian or you, you do. I've heard the conversation and it's excellent. I learned a lot.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. Two important things happened in between this episode and our last episode in early December. One of, was the passing of the budget that we're just about to talk about. The other was, the signing into law of Space Force. It happened, and I have to admit, I didn't expect it. So we go [00:07:00] back to the, uh, national space defense expert, Brian Weeden, to talk about what actually happened in that legislation. What does it mean for the future of militarization of space? And, yeah, it's a really fascinating conversation. I also learned a lot. I mainly do civil space. So this is why we've talk to experts like Dr. Weeden to give us that insight. I, I thought it was a really useful conversation. So stick around for that.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, that's just minutes away. But now let's talk about that, uh, the budget because there was some pretty significant action, right? Just at the end of, uh, last year.

Casey Dreier: It's very characteristic of Congress in the modern age that it's, it's kind of the, a forcing function of the government's gonna shut down unless they [laughing] get together and pass a budget.

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: And they tend to do it within about 48 hours. For all of you who remember, we were on an, a continuing resolution, a temporary extension of 2019. Spending levels that expired at midnight on December 20th, 2019. About four [00:08:00] days before that, the house released this massive compromised spending bill for the entire federal government. I think the, the entire bill was in the thousands of pages. It voted on it very quickly, it moved over to the Senate. The Senate voted on it and passed it about two days later. And then the president waited until the evening of the 20th, hours before the deadline, to sign it into law. But it kept the government open and it is now funded including NASA through the fiscal year. So we finally have this budget. This process began in February of 2019, it wrapped up in December of 2019. So it took about 10 months to get there. But we have a budget now. And so we can actually talk about what NASA got and what it has to work with. Uh, what types of funding it has to pursue its Artemis program and its scientific efforts.

And it, overall I'd say it's pretty good. So I just want to plug ... I have a new post up today that explores and highlights [00:09:00] and kind of takes in an analysis of the final budget process. And we'll highlight some of that here.

Mat Kaplan: And you want to find that of course, at

Casey Dreier: Oh yeah. [laughs]

Mat Kaplan: [crosstalk 00:09:08] yeah.

Casey Dreier: I should say, yeah, I generally post on, on Planetary Society's website. That's on So Mat, you just want me to hit some of the highlights and, and we'll go from there?

Mat Kaplan: Absolutely. Yeah. Take us through that.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. I'll start with the good news and, and it's actually mostly good news. Which ironically or not, in itself is good news. NASA's budget grew by 5.3% from 2019 to 2020. Uh, so NASA's budget is $22.63 billion for this fiscal year. Pretty much everything went up. So if you remember, the original budget request had a bunch of cancellations for a variety of science programs and earth science. They canceled WFIRST, the follow on to James Webb Space Telescope. And it also got rid of NASA's, or proposed, I should say, to get rid of NASA's education outreach division as well. [00:10:00] Congress once again rejected all of those. So no major programs at NASA were canceled this year. They were all funded by Congress and at very reasonable levels. WFIRST got 511 million. Uh, the director of the NASA astrophysics program said that's enough to keep it on track for a mid 2020s launch.

The education outreach, the, the renamed, I think STEM division of NASA actually got a boost [laughing] ultimately from Congress, which is kind of funny b- ... Every time you want to increase funding for NASA education, try to cancel it because Congress has been coming back and boosting it by about 10% each time. 120 million for that. And so it's an increase of 100, of 10 million from the year before. That funds a lot of, uh, outreach efforts, it funds a lot of student ... It funds Space Grant, which is NASA's state-by-state level grant making program for students and teachers i- in every individual state. Very popular with Congress. Science grew to $7.1 billion. I think it's, [00:11:00] it's the largest amount, uh, I think ever in terms of, of just real dollars. Planetary science stayed at the request, 2.7 billion. Very, very [laughing] good and just, uh, a spectacular number.

Earth science is, is relatively flat but has maintained its $1.97 billion level. That's again, maintaining roughly record levels for earth science. Astrophysics stayed a pretty good level. They added some extra money for James Webb to cover the new overrun. And even, uh, Heliophysics grew by a couple million dollars. So in the science side, NASA is just doing extraordinarily well. And these amounts are going to ena- enable NASA to pursue the beginning of the Mars sample-return efforts, which is now officially codified within NASA. That's a huge deal. As we talked about last time that, now that ESA has come in as a partner, NASA has now begun planning for the sample retrieval mission. Uh, which sh- should launch hopefully in 22 ... As early as 2026. We have missions moving through in earth science. We have the next generation space [00:12:00] telescope progressing in astrophysics. It's great news. I- It's [laughing] just I'm not used to having so many good things to say-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: ... particularly about planetary science. The Europa Clipper is moving forward. We have a new planetary defense mission, we'll see more information about. Congress gave them about 30 million just to continue pre-planning on that for, for the NEO Surveillance Mission. Just great numbers for science. The exploration is more interesting. For all of our listeners who remember that we had two budget requests this year for NASA. The strange, unprecedented, somewhat [laughing] chaotic process. Policy by surprise, as Marcia Smith called it. The original budget request said nothing about landing on the moon in 2024. It proposed to actually reduce funding for the big Space Launch System rocket. Uh, basically canceling development of it's Block 2 efforts to focus on just the, the original block, what's called Block 1A. Being able to launch an Orion to the lunar orbit. It was almost s- seen as somewhat of a punitive slap on the wrist to the SLS program [00:13:00] for being so delayed and over budget. And then about a couple months later, we, of course we had vice president Pence announced that we're going to go to the moon, do it in 2024.

They released a supplemental request and it requested about 2.6 billion. That's where this extra money came from. It added some money back to [laughing] SLS, and it requested $1 billion for a human qualified lunar lander system, right? To, to put those boots steps on the moon. Congress had kind of a long, d-, somewhat divisive. The house now run by the democratic party was somewhat hostile or at least skeptical, I think it's fair to say about this accelerated program. The Senate was open to it, but surprisingly lukewarm, I would say. Given that that's run by members of the same party as the president. And then of course the fact that they only requested a 5% boost to NASA to land on the moon in five years, not the strongest start to what s- should be a 20 to $30 billion program to, to do this. But, you know, so we look at the final numbers here, [00:14:00] it, it kind of really reflects I think the political dynamics of how strongly Congress ultimately controls programmatic focus of NASA.

It really just illustrates this aspect of the, the, the distribution of NASA centers and who pays attention and what programs are aware. Finally, where we are with SLS for example, even though the year started out with SLS getting a slap on the wrist for being over budget and behind schedule. And now it comes out at it's, literally its highest program budget ever, uh, at about $2.6 billion maybe I th- or 2.7 depending on, on how you round it. And 300 million set aside for the Block 2 specifically the exploration upper stage. And this is a program that has incredible support in Congress. It, it basically grew [laughing] from the request by almost a billion dollars over the request.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, they love that big rocket.

Casey Dreier: Th- they've built a very strong coalition, we'll put it that way. So that's a really [00:15:00] fascinating lesson about how those, you know, the difference between a presidential request and final congressional action, right. So this is where we have to really pay attention to where the power structures are and how that power is distributed between executive and legislative branch. And who has, if nothing else, the most incentivized level of ac- ... You know, Congress, particularly the members of Congress who control NASA's budget, have much more incentive to protect that program because it's in their districts than the White House does to cancel it. That's one of many things the White House is trying to do. This is one of the most important things for those members of Congress to protect. So there's a disparity between the level of intensity of the support and, and the level of intensity of, of the skepticism that came from the White House.

Also, that we saw, which I thought was very surprising and not a good sign for the Artemis effort for landing in 2024, was that ultimately Congress allocated $600 million for the lunar lander [00:16:00] development for this first year. Out of the gate, Congress is underfunding that request by 40%. Not a great start $600 million, again, it's a lot of money to you and me. But to put that in context, that is less than NASA spends on its Heliophysics program. It's less than NASA spends on any other major human space flight effort right now by a significant amount. And except for, I guess, Lunar Gateway kind of came out about half a billion dollars. But that's a very different type of system than landing on the moon, which no one has done as we all know since 1972. So an auspicious beginning to this, we're really going to see the rubber hit the road here come February when the White House releases its next fiscal year request for NASA.

Which should include a five year projection for the total cost of its Artemis program. The five year projection that is always included as part of NASA's budget request from the White House, that will cover the entire 2024 [00:17:00] lending deadline. So that money should be in there and that we will see what the White House wants to ask for. And we will see how serious they are about making this happen. If we don't see, I'd say, four to $5 billion increase of NASA every single year above its current baseline, then I don't think we can take Artemis seriously. So this is going to be a really fascinating opportunity to see where the administration is on this lunar landing effort.

Mat Kaplan: That is going to generate one interesting discussion. Uh, whatever they come out with, uh, as a request for funding of this, uh, moon landing. I know you saw the story just a couple of days ago that because of this underfunding of the, uh, human lander, uh, the NASA administrator may be going to contractors and saying, "We you to put up more of your own money." I just wonder if that's a realistic request.

Casey Dreier: [laughs] We're, we're going to find out. I mean, a- a- as people like Eric Berger at Ars Technica pointed out, it's [00:18:00] very bizarre in some ways that NASA is pursuing a fixed price, public private partnership kind of pathway for developing a lunar lander. Which again, is functionally kind of restarting from scratch this, uh, very complex, very difficult project, right. To be able to safely place humans on the ground and then bring them back up into lunar orbit. But we're using this cost plus classic government style, open contract for building the space launch system rocket in Orion crew capsule. Two things that we quote unquote know how to do right. Building rockets, building capsules. We don't know if a public private partnership is the right pathway for something that's so critical to NASA's plans to land on the surface of the moon. Not just in terms of safety, but just in, you know, it's the core aspect [laughing] of ... You can't land on the moon without a lander.

Mat Kaplan: No.

Casey Dreier: This is complicated by the fact that there's no existing economy on the lunar [00:19:00] surface that would help these companies say, "Well, we can put an upfront investment knowing we're going to get a pay off in the future." And particularly with an election coming up this year that the future of the Artemis program, at least the 2024 deadline, for certain will be very up in the air. So they can't even count on long-term contracts with NASA to give them lunar access to help backfill that upfront investment. So I will also be very curious to see how these companies respond to this idea that they should put in more skin in the game. Ideally, it'd be great. It sounds like a wonderful thing, but, the companies themselves are going to have to look at their own financial interests. And they can't just float hundreds of millions of dollars on their own and necessarily remain a viable company on the promise of these amorphous potential future payoffs. Particularly when you don't have an economy already waiting for, or a marketplace already waiting for you at the [00:20:00] surface of the moon.

Mat Kaplan: I, it does make me wonder if, uh, we had been working with these so-called fixed price contracts back in the 1960s w- [laughs] would Neil and Buzz have been able to walk on the moon with companies looking to, "Okay, but how are we going to make money off of this eventually?" It's, uh, it's such an interesting question. And I would suggest that listeners who have not heard your previous discussions, uh, with guests about fixed price versus cost plus in previous, uh, Space Policy Edition episodes. Check those out for a lot of excellent background on this.

Casey Dreier: We just talked about actually in the last episode, right, with Marcia Smith. That's her-

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Casey Dreier: ... biggest unknown going into this decade. Is, are fixed priced public private partnership contracts, are they going to succeed in these new domains beyond low Earth orbit. Which, as a reminder, has a preexisting marketplace thanks to things like earth observation and, uh, satellite communications. That there is an existing marketplace to go into to make money from, [00:21:00] you don't have to hope one manifests itself once you go there.

Mat Kaplan: Well, let's hope that, uh, in addition to finding, uh, water to make rocket fuel and air to breathe, that, uh, there's a big field of diamonds at the poles of, uh, [laughing] one of-

Casey Dreier: [laughs]

Mat Kaplan: ... the poles on the moon.

Casey Dreier: I'm crossing my fingers Mat or, or, uh, unobtainium I think was avatar's answer for this.

Mat Kaplan: Unobtainium isn't that the other name for Helium-3?

Casey Dreier: Yeah. Ooh, snap [laughs] on Helium-3. Yeah. Helium-3, a great marketplace. First, all you have to do is invent commercial grade fusion-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: ... that uses Helium-3, and then Helium-3 becomes very valuable. So, yes, the, I d- don't ... Like we talked about before, maybe don't bet your, uh, future retirement on that particular option.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Casey Dreier: A- and again, just, all of this serves to illustrate, we're trending a little bit on the negative side now. And I just want to, to bring us back though to the overall big picture here. Which is, this year marks, I think, the, the sixth year in a row that NASA's budget has [00:22:00] grown. And we can't take that for granted. I remember when I first began working at the Planetary Society when NASA was dropping year to year, when planetary science was facing an existential crisis of funding cuts. And how hard it was to turn this around. And so the fact that, you know, since 2014 Congress has added more money than the president requested every single year. We're seeing again the, the White House again requesting a 5% growth, and that was actually just matched by Congress. And technically Congress added 10 million above it, but functionally what the request was. This is a period of, of seeing NASA start to have some of the resources it really needs to do the job that we're asking it to do.

Again, this is all very good and I think we should really savor and appreciate the good times [laughing] in terms of NASA budgeting. Um, being able to start missions, being able to have a chance, and even to debate whether we ... The fact that we're [00:23:00] debating whether or not NASA can land on the moon in 2024 because it's been directed to do so by the president, that's a great debate to have. I'm glad we're having that debate and not to so asking, "Well, well how do we keep the doors open at NASA?" Right? This is a good problem to have.

Mat Kaplan: Let's hope that in two years, five years, uh, we aren't looking back on this as that golden age, uh, of, uh, NASA funding for science. That is, uh, certainly a possibility because these things do tend to come in cycles as we all know.

Casey Dreier: Absolutely. And if you actually look at the inflation adjusted levels for NASA, this year we're basically finally back at parody to where NASA was in 2010. So even though we have seen this growth, we're basically crawling out of a hole of those cuts on top of inflation. It shows you how hard it is to maintain this. And again, as you point out, this could completely change, particularly because again, we are facing an election year, presidential election year in 2020. A [00:24:00] new president in '21 could have a completely and will likely have a completely different policy for NASA than the Trump administration has right now. And that's something we're going to be trying to work to understand better as the year goes forward and we understand who the, uh, democratic nominees are for president. Let's savor the good times. I think another thing, [laughing] just in case we- [laughs] were feeling too good about ourselves, something else I just wanted to mention. I said every year since 2014 Congress has added funding above the presidential request to NASA.

That is technically true. This year I said it's only 10 million, but functionally this is the smallest amount or the first time that Congress has basically met their request as opposed to providing a significant chunk above it. So you can see these trendlines. Actually I have this on our website, we'll link to this on the show notes. On my NASA's, uh, FY2020 budget page, I have two lines. I have the presidential request line and I have the ultimate line like funded by Congress. Congress line has always been [00:25:00] above the request line for years, and this is the first year since 2014 that they've converged. So that's also a little troubling to me too that for the first time in years Congress hasn't been able to muster support to go above and beyond. So that may tell us something too, and we need to keep an eye on that.

And that's exactly why we do things like going to Congress ourselves and saying like, "Look, we ... This is great to have this growth, but we have to keep this going. We have to grow NASA above the level of inflation, and we have to give them the resources to succeed in the mandates we're giving them to do." And if we can't do that, then there's going to be trouble down the line.

Mat Kaplan: If you are not listening to us at, and most of you aren't, of course, if you go to you will find the episode page that, uh, goes with what you're listening to right now. And all of these, uh, helpful links that Casey will be providing, uh, to give you even more of a perspective on our topics. And it is this historical [00:26:00] perspective that I think is one of the most valuable things that we get out of, uh, the Space Policy Edition and the other work that you, uh, you do Casey to share all of this with people. As we speak, he segued, history is being made. Because as you said, we now have a Space Force in the United States and we even have res- resources being transferred to it.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. About the same time as NASA's budget was signed into law, the president did a signing ceremony for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. Legislation that passed both houses of Congress obviously. And within that legislation they established a Space Force. Now, Space Force is one of those topics [laughs] I think that, that brings up a lot of opinions and fear for a lot of people and energy. And I think that the reality of it tends to be different than the rhetoric around it. And that's why I reached out to Brian Weeden. He actually joined us back in 2018 to first talk about Space Force. [00:27:00] He's the Director of Program Planning at the Secure World Foundation. He has a PhD in public policy, particularly focused on a national defense issues in space. And even before that, Brian Weeden is one of those people whose biography is pretty humbling for, uh, to read as most-

Mat Kaplan: [laughs]

Casey Dreier: ... regular people. Um, before he got his PhD, he was actually an officer in, in the US air force working in a US Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Center. And so he has a very deep and intimate understanding with the national defense side of the space equation. And that's why we reached out to him to talk us through exactly what happened with this legislation. What does it mean that we have a Space Force? What did it do, what it didn't do? And then also trying to see, you know, what are the implications now going forward. But fundamentally, yes, there's a sixth branch of the military now called Space Force. But it's not what probably a lot of people think. And so Brian will be joining us, uh, [00:28:00] basically right [laughing] now I guess to talk us through this.

Mat Kaplan: And let me, uh, let everybody know that the, you will immediately notice that the audio quality from, uh, Brian is, is not up to our usual standard. But I think you will agree when you hear this conversation that the content more than makes up for, uh, any technical lack. Uh, Casey and I will see you on the other side of, uh, his conversation with Brian Weeden. Here it is.

Casey Dreier: So Brian Weeden, welcome back to Space Policy Edition to talk about what else, the Space Force. Which is, which is actually happened technically now with the signing of the 2020 Defense Authorization Act. Before we go into what has happened with Space Force, I want to jump back. And for those of us listening who haven't or didn't hear our first conversation about this a few years ago, I want to just touch on what were the motivations for creating a new branch or a focused area for, not the militarization of space, but actually a military service focused on space. [00:29:00] Why are we even talking about a Space Force now? What were the motivations and, and where did this come from?

Brian Weeden: Well, thanks. I'm glad to be back and talk about th- th- this topic with you and your listeners. There's been a long running debate focused on how best to organize national security space activities. And by national security space we mean the activities of the military and the intelligence community in space. Like most of your listeners are familiar with what NASA has been doing in space, which is sort of the civil side of the US government space programs. But since the very beginning of space age, in fact, before NASA was even around, there were both military and intelligence activities going on in space. It really started in, uh, late 2000, early 2001 with the release of something called the [inaudible 00:29:48] commission report. Where they sort of highlighted that the existing way we organized those military intelligence capability space probably is not ideal for some of the [00:30:00] challenges we'd face in the future. And since that report came out over the last 20 years or so, there's a long running debate within the community about what we should do.

The way things were up until, you know, a month or so ago, was that the US air force was primarily responsible for most of the military space activities. Air Force Space Command operated most of the military satellites. And the air force was sort of the executive lead to coordinate across all the different branches and services, the army, the Navy, and the Marines. Who kind of all had some of their own space acquisitions, purchasing programs. And then on the intelligence community side you have the National Reconnaissance Office, the NRO. That is mainly the lead for developing a lot of the intelligence satellites and operating them, and then a smaller role for some of the other intelligence agencies. That's sort of where we were. And within the military you [00:31:00] have the air force and Air Force Space Command leading on, what we talk about is the operate, train, equip mission. Where they're responsible for recruiting people, training them, buying stuff and then operating that.

And then US Strategic Command, which was responsible for the, we call the warfighting mission in space. Which is actually using all those military satellites and services to go off and do stuff. So that's sort of where we were. Several years ago, congress, uh, led by representative Mike Rogers in Alabama, started focusing on this issue again. Mainly driven by with the rise of, of threats in space, um, renewed Russian and it's satellite programs. You know, Chinese [inaudible 00:31:44] and their satellite programs put up a more contested congestive competitive space environment. And sort of driving this, this issue that maybe the air force is not the best place to have all the space stuff going forward. So that was around '15, '16, [00:32:00] '17 timeframe. And some of the major problems people had with what the air force was doing was partly cultural. That a service based around air fighting and the air domain operations, may not have the right mindset for space domain and space operations. Because they are very different environments.

There was a lot of concerns raised and problems, long running problems with the way the air force was running some of the major space acquisitions programs. Satellite programs that were years behind schedule, billions of dollars over budget. Or there wasn't coordination between something the air force was doing or something the army was doing or something the NRO was doing. And, and then there was just this question of, how do we better respond to some of the threats that are out there. So, and mixed into all of those was sort of this need to develop a better ... Do a better job of developing a cadre of [00:33:00] military space professionals that really understand what's going on and are sort of allowed to develop their own doctrine and their own policies and sort of the way they're going to approach things. So those were the major problems people had with the way things was that eventually led to the Space Force debate.

Casey Dreier: The salient point here in terms of the near history of this is, back in 20 ... You said '15 and '16, you started to see movement within Congress and, and probably on the committees in Congress that deal with national defense issues. I- is that fair to say that's kind of where the concept for a Space Force came from?

Brian Weeden: Correct. It was, uh, within the house Armed Services committee and specifically the strategic forces subcommittee, that representative Rogers chaired and he had supported. This is a bipartisan effort. There were a couple of, um, democratic Congressman that were heavily involved in this as well. They held some hearings and what that culminated in a push from the [00:34:00] house to create what we call the Space Corps. So very much like the Marine Corps, which is a separate military service that's housed within the department of the Navy. It has its own independent culture and uniforms and sort of doctrine and a way of doing things from the Navy, but relies on the Navy for a lot of the overhead. Representative Rogers and the house, um, I think it was in the, uh, FY18 NDAA passed legislation that would have created a Space Corps. But that did not pass the Senate. The Senate essentially was, you know, not convinced it was necessary. They had concerns about the cost. And so, uh, basically there was directed to have a study.

Casey Dreier: As my listeners know, I mainly focus on civil space policy. So I'm going to be trying to reinterpret some of what you're saying and you can tell me if I'm understanding this correctly. Kind of this core issue then was the idea that a Space Corps would solve is, that you needed some sort of [00:35:00] focused group of people within the defense community on the issues of, particular to space, the war fighting domain of space. And procurement and how to pr- prepare for potential conflict in space. Is, is that an accurate way to summarize the, the core of what this is supposed to address?

Brian Weeden: So, so yes, we have the air force, which is primarily focused on a task with the air domain. We have the army that is focused on land warfare and combat. And the Navy, which is focused on maritime. A- and there's really no service that is dedicated to space. As space becomes more of a contested domain, and potential future war fighting that may include space, that was sort of the big need. That there was needed to be an organization the military dedicated to that.

Casey Dreier: So you started to see this m- motion from Congress, from the house Armed Services committee, and as you said, it was, it was a bipartisan interest in this. And then of [00:36:00] course we enter into the story of president Trump who, who seems to latch onto this idea of not just a Space Corps but a Space Force. And as he called that a few years ago, a separate but equal branch, a sixth branch of the, of the US military. Once the president became interested in this, it seemed to kind of take on a much bigger sense of awareness. And, and the White House was starting to push this through. And I think that when we spoke back in 2018, the White House had signed a directive telling The Pentagon to begin preparing for a Space Force. But there was a lot left to do. The, the White House couldn't just create a whole armed service out of thin air. Congress had to take action. So over the course of the last, I'd say 18 months, I'd say two important developments have happened.

Uh, one is what sparked this conversation just last month was the signing of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Which, which defined, uh, it created the Space [00:37:00] Force, but also the establishment of a Space Command. Could we just address both of those, maybe starting with the Space Command and then let's dive into what actually happened with Space Force.

Brian Weeden: Sure. Well, I mentioned the push within Congress through the NDAA and, F-, and FY18 NDAA to create a Space Force. There was also a push to bring back US Space Command. Now there's, there's, there's a, there's a distinction here and we talked about in the previous [inaudible 00:37:25], that I reiterate this again. And this is a little confusing. But within the military there are two separate organizational structures. There's a set of organizations that are, have this, we call the operate, train, equip mission. I.e. they recruit people, bring people in, they train them how to do things. They procure and purchase equipment and capabilities and then match up those people and the capabilities. That's what the services do. Army, Navy, air force, Marines. There's a whole other set of commands and military structures out there that do the, we call the warfighting mission. [00:38:00] And those are what we call the combatant commands. For example, when the United States decided to go into Afghanistan, that falls under the combatant command known as US Central Command.

And so the US Central Command commander put together a plan for the invasion of Afghanistan and said, "I need the following tanks and planes and ships and Marine units and or airborne whatever." And the services sent all of those over. CENTCOM then used them to fight the war. And then when they got done, they returned back to the services. When it comes to space, we traditionally had Air Force Space Command doing operate, train, equip. And, uh, for the last 10 years or so, we've had US Strategic Command doing a warfighting mission. So what happens sort of in parallel to the Space Guard or, or ... Sorry, sorry, Space Corps, Space Force discussion, is we had Congress also authorizing in the FY19 legislation [00:39:00] to bring back US Space Command as a dedicated combatant command focused on space. That was passed in legislation, that was not really controversial, had fairly strong bipartisan support. And then president Trump signed executive order several months ago actually implementing that legislation passed by Congress. So that was US Space Command, which now, uh, is the entity responsible for the military operations in space.

Casey Dreier: And to be clear on that point, that could happen without ... It didn't require the establishment of a Space Force in order to have the Space Command. Is that correct?

Brian Weeden: That is absolutely correct. You still could have had Air Force Space Command doing the operate, train, equip mission along with Army Space Command and the Naval space people all doing their own independent operate, train, equip missions. And then them providing forces to US Space Command, [00:40:00] which goes off and does the missions. The two pieces, the warfighting piece and the operate, train, equip can be done independently. And so this US Space Command was a change to the warfighting and combatant command piece.

Casey Dreier: Okay. So we establish Space Command relatively, as you said, uncontroversial. And, and actually going back, and we, this is something we had before in the United States up until the early-

Brian Weeden: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Casey Dreier: ... part of the 21st century. Let's move forward now. It's December, Congress ended up passing the NDAA. President signed it on December 20th. The president says to the essence of this, "It's a big moment. This is a big moment. We're all here for it space is ... A lot of things are going to be happening in space."

Trump: With my signature today, you will witness the birth of the Space Force and that will be now officially the sixth branch of the United States armed forces. That is something really incredible. It's a big [00:41:00] moment. That's a big moment and we're all here for it. Space, there gonna be a lot of things happening in space. Because space is the world's newest warfighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital, and we're leading but we're not leading by enough. But very shortly we'll be leading by a lot. The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.

Casey Dreier: The White House signs this as established Space Force and he's talking up as a, as a very big moment. So let's talk about this. What does the Space For- ... What has actually happened with this establishment of a new Space Force? What did Congress agree to and what did the White House get out of this deal?

Brian Weeden: The way I would put it simply is, we are much closer to the end of the beginning of the Space Force than [00:42:00] the actual end of the whole discussion. Trump is partly right. It is a big deal and that this legislation created a new military service. That has not been done in quite a long time, and it's very rare for the, for that to happen. But we still have yet to see what the details are about what it is the Space Force is gonna look like and what it's gonna do. Let alone whether or not it's gonna answer or solve any of the problems and challenges we talked about that sort of drove this whole debate. Let me unpack that a little bit. The legislation creates a new service called the US Space Force, which is housed within the Department of Defense. Uh, sorry, within the department of the air force. So it's effectively doing the Space Corps that representative Rogers tried to push through a couple of years ago.

They're calling it a force, that's because they have to because Trump demanded it. But it's not really, it's, it's still within the [00:43:00] air force. It's not a separate department, a separate or equal department that he originally called for. And this new department has the full Title 10 authorities for operate, train, and equipping. That's pretty important because that gives them the opportunity to be pretty independent of other services going forward. But in the interim or right off the start, they basically have rebranded Air Force Space Command as the Space Force. So the roughly 26,000 people that existed in, they were serving as part of Air Force Space Command the day before Trump sign that. The day after, they're now part of the Space Force, that is the US Space Force. So at the very beginning, the people that are in the Space Force and the mission of the Space Force, and the, the satellites it has, are exactly the same as what the air force had up until, you know, December.

Casey Dreier: So just carved out that [00:44:00] chunk, that the Space Corps would have? Its Space Corps by another name. Is that a accurate way to-

Brian Weeden: Correct.

Casey Dreier: ... describe it at this point?

Brian Weeden: Th- that's a very accurate way to put it. And, and also the legislation was very specific that it for the time being, it only includes the air force, the Air Force Space Command. Yes, it was surprising because as we talked about, one of the big drivers here was the need to better integrate the efforts from the air force, the army, the Navy and the Marines. And for right now it doesn't do this because the legislation says it includes only the air force. Now, it left a window open that down the road we can start pulling in elements of the other services into the Space Force. But I think Congress was really concerned about overhead. They were concerned about this becoming too big too quickly and having a lot of bureaucratic bloat. And I think that's why that they had to really focus to begin with.

Casey Dreier: Yeah, I was reading through some of the legislation itself that [00:45:00] established the Space Force. And it makes very clear that this is not an authorization, I think the ... Is it military billets? I don't know how to pronounce it exactly since I'm not a specialist. Can't hire new people basically. You're, you're reassigning existing-

Brian Weeden: Correct.

Casey Dreier: ... people. Very specific about that.

Brian Weeden: Yeah. That is actually correct. They're all ... [inaudible 00:45:16] says, it says that, it does not authorize any new billet. And billet is legislative language for a person. You know, the army and the Navy, the air force, the Marines are all authorized to have a certain number of people in them. And that dictates how much they can recruit and retain and all that kind of stuff. What this says, is when they transfer all those air force space people into the Space Force, the air force is not allowed to create any new billet. So the overall size of the department of the air force stays exactly the same. They're just moving people from one part over to the Space Force.

Casey Dreier: What's the practical difference then between the Space Force as implemented and what, uh, [00:46:00] was as a sub part of the department of the air force six months ago?

Brian Weeden: There's one difference that happens right away. And that is, the commander of air force Space Command got some new powers and authorities. And I kind of think that's general Raymond right now. So general Raymond is now the chief of space operations, which is the name for the new head of the Space Force. And now gets a seat on the joint chiefs. That's important, because that now means that space has an independent voice on the joint chiefs. Which are the, the, the leaders of all the military services that advise the president on military matters. That's fairly important. Because that, that gives space again an inde- independent voice. It also gives general Raymond full Title 10 authorities, operate, train, equip. That's a lot of power a- and that's a change in authority that happens now. Although the, the, the [00:47:00] implementation of that is going to take a while. Uh, I think in general if wanna see what has happened I say is that, there has been a change in authorities and a change in structure that could lead to big differences down the road.

But we're talking a year, a couple of years, maybe even five years, before we probably start to see a lot of, of the really meaningful changes. That's why I said we're closer to the beginning of the end than the actual end.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. I saw, and I, I forget, it, it may have been general Raymond quoted as, you know, "We're going to take our time to establish our own culture now in the Space Force." Because in a sense they have ... It's almost like, I think from my perspective, you know, when you isolate populations, you start to have divergent evolution. In a sense, you're kind of car- ... Even though you're carving out of the air force right now, the same group of people now that they have their own in a sense that control and self determination to a [00:48:00] degree because they have their own, you know, they're going to have their own kind of special designation, right? And name and, and chain of command, is that correct internally within-

Brian Weeden: Correct..

Casey Dreier: ... them? That they're able to, and have their insignia, and you can create a culture now that you're isolated away from the rest of the air force. And that happens more over time, you, you'll diverge even though you had a shared point of origin. And-

Brian Weeden: Correct.

Casey Dreier: ... so it seemed like they're looking to this as the start of like a long-term establishment of who and what the Space Force is going to be despite the fact that they still are housed within the, the air force.

Brian Weeden: Th- that's absolutely correct and that's part of the uncertainty here. One of the big questions they're gonna have to answer really early on is, how different do we want that Space Force culture to be from the air force culture? And that leads to questions like, do we use the same air force rank structure? Do we have a whole new rank structure? Do we have whole new uniforms? Do we have [00:49:00] new flags and new symbols and new slogans? That whole debate is centered around that cultural. So, for example, when the air force separated from the army, they kept all the same rank and insignia. So if you look at, at the air force, they have lieutenants and captains and majors and colonels and generals. Which is exactly the same thing as the army had. But if you look at the Navy and the Marine Corps, they have different rank and insignia. Because the Marine decided to have a one unique thing and they sorta did a hybrid of, of Naval and, and, and, and army rank structure.

And, and of course, the more change you want to do in that culture sense, the longer it is gonna take to have effect. Again, this is one of the big unknowns we have, is just how big of a cultural change they're going to shoot for. And thus how long it's gonna take to start to have an effect.

Casey Dreier: Again, what the actual, their jobs are going to be are functionally for the time being going to [00:50:00] remain the same, right? And they're-

Brian Weeden: Correct.

Casey Dreier: ... they're, they're inheriting, they're just re designating existing spacecraft and operational response of ... And I think the procurement aspect is the interesting thing, right, of, of what they are going to advocate to build and budget for and of the infrastructure to create for the needs of US Space Command. Again, this isn't about creating, a, a, a, ess- ess- essentially an o-, an offensive human [laughs] based, you know, flying around Star Wars style in space. This is, if you join the Space Command, right, or, or the Space Force right now, you're operating GPS satellites probably.

Brian Weeden: Correct? Correct. And to, to reinforce your point, there was just an announcement the last day or so that the 45th Space Wing has conducted the first space launch for the Space Force. Because they're now a Space Force asset. But it's the same people, the same mission. And the space launch had been planned long before, you know, the Space Force transition ever happened. But they just sort of [00:51:00] changed the logo and the branding of what they're doing, for now. And, and you're right, there is not a discussion right now about are Marines on the moon? Or crude space dog fighters or any of that kind of sci-fi stuff. Or even really all that new offensive weapons in space. That may come, but we really haven't even gotten to that discussion yet. Because that is all part of how different is the future of the Space Force going to be from the way things had been for the last 10 years or so.

Casey Dreier: And again, it just strikes me looking at this implementation. It, it seems like maybe the most small c conservative step that they could take that would still meet the demands of the White House here, which was just carving out one department's activities. I, I frankly, again, I know there must be [crosstalk 00:51:55]-

Brian Weeden: Yes. I think that's, I think, I think that's a good assessment. Yeah, I think that's a good assessment.

Casey Dreier: What is this trying to solve then if it, [00:52:00] if it's not integrating Navy, e- even Navy and army? And, uh, and again I saw in the, in the legislation and also the appropriations legislation for the Department of Defense, specifically forbidding it to touch anything that the, in the national intelligence side of the house. So like-

Brian Weeden: Correct.

Casey Dreier: ... you're, and you're still not unifying the intelligence gathering space assets with what the defense side of things are doing.

Brian Weeden: Absolutely correct. Um, if I'm putting on my domestic politics hat, what this solved is president Trump's demand that he have a Space Force so that he can boast about it on the campaign trail. It was just, it was, it was really, it was kind of shocking the amount of pressure, political pressure from the White House on Republicans and Congress to go along with this, particularly in the Senate. And, and if you look at what they gave up, because the trade for this was 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal workers. That was the trade that the Democrats got in exchange for the Democrats [00:53:00] supporting the creation of the Space Force. I, I can't envision another domestic political scenario where Republicans are ever really in favor of that sort of a thing. But they were in order to get the Space Force because they were under this pressure from president Trump to get it done. So, so that's sort of the ... That was the political calculus in my mind that, that actually forced the whole thing through. If you look in the long-term, again, you're exactly right. You mentioned acquisitions.

We have no idea how or even if the Space Force is going to improve the acquisition side of it. Because today we actually have more acquisition entities involved in space than before we had the whole Space Force discussion. Because of the space, uh, development agency that was created a year or two ago as part of this whole discussion. And now in the legislation, The, The Pentagon is required to give a report to Congress I think in March that outlines how they're going to, how the Space Force is [00:54:00] going to basically bring together all these different space acquisition stuff in a coherent manner. One new thing in the legislation is it creates a new Space Force acquisitions council. This is a very interesting beast because it, it's sort of the Congress's vision for how to synchronize and harmonize the acquisitions between the intelligence community and all the different parts of the military. But it's not going to be established for quite a while.

A- and once it gets established, you're talking about this council of senior leaders that are then supposed to get together and talk and somehow then all their individual organizations are going to work better together. We've had that in the past with not great results. Something called the Defense Space Council it existed for several years up until a few years ago. So, uh, this is back to your point, acquisitions is one of the big, big drivers behind this. And we have no clue [00:55:00] how Space Force is going to make that better or if it ever will.

Casey Dreier: Do you see this as a potential ... Again, we're talking about this, the long-term aspects of this now, which again are hard to predict. But it sounds like there could be a lot of potential consequences down the line because of this initial even relatively small step. And something that I was thinking about, uh, often in history you look at a small policy development that then gets expanded over time. Do you think you see something like Space Force now ... Which is just the air force reconfigured into a Space Force activities. Will become more and more pressure maybe over a decade or more, that as it establishes itself, members of Congress will ask, why do we have a separate activities within the Navy? Why do we have separate activities within army? And it'll become more natural just to fold them in over time into a, a growing Space Force versus trying to do this all at once. D- do you think that's part of the long game that [00:56:00] these, uh, folks are playing here, that this is [crosstalk 00:56:02]-

Brian Weeden: Uh, it could be. I think now that we have a separate Space Force, a separate service for space, I think it's going to persist. I- it's extraordinarily rare public administration to get rid of anything. Right. So I, I think it's going to persist. Whether or not [inaudible 00:56:18] it pulls in everything, I actually think it's probably not. And I look to the history of the air force for that. So we created the air force to kind of be the main entity looking after the air domain in the war fighting. And the air force does that. But the army has its own aviation Corps, the Navy has Naval aviation, the Marines have their own aviation. So it's not like, once we created the air force, everything related to aviation and aircraft went over there. I mean, they started doing their own thing and then the other services said, "Well, that's great but we still rely on air power and we want to control that so we [00:57:00] can trust it. So we're going to retain our own separate air power stuff." And then of course you enter the huge problem, how do you coordinate all that?

So nowadays, we have all these joint doctrine and joint inter-agency stuff to help coordinate the aircraft used by the air force, the Navy, the Marines, and the army, so they can all work together in the same airspace. I think that's the way space is probably going to go. And that you're going to have the Space Force off doing space stuff. But it's probably doing it for its own reasons. And it may not always be doing it to support what the army needs from space or what the Navy needs from space or the Marines. And then you have the others or those other organizations then developing their own space stuff to support what they need. Partly because they may not, in a bureaucratic sense, trust the Space Force. Partly because maybe the Space Force doesn't seem to be answering their needs. Th- that's sort of the future I kind of see us heading down, but we still don't know a lot. We, we'll know [00:58:00] more six months to a year from now about what direction the Space Force is going than we know now.

Casey Dreier: The last time we spoke in 2018 you said that you were against the concept of the Space Force because it, because basically it created a bunch of bureaucratic problems to solve as opposed to solving the fundamental problems you outlined at the beginning of, of this conversation and, and the last conversation. Now that it has been established and you see some of the details that we do have, what are your opinions about what has been created? Had, did they address any of those issues or do we have the same fundamental problem of, of just a bureaucratic reshuffling and, and focus versus fundamental problem solving here?

Brian Weeden: My opinion is largely [inaudible 00:58:47] the same. Originally I was skeptical too against this because I saw it as spending thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of hours making a change in [00:59:00] the hope that you could then address some of these problems. Instead of just spending all that time and effort addressing the problem. And, and I, I think that has been validated to a [inaudible 00:59:10] of injury because as I said, think of, you know, if you talk to anybody who's in The Pentagon or anybody in the White House or in Congress on this, that the Space Force debate has just sucked all the oxygen out of the room when it comes to dealing with these underlying problems. And so all this time and effort was spent on creating the thing called a Space Force. And as I said, we still have no idea how or even if it will answer any of those underlying problems. Now, it might. 10 years from now, we might look back and say, "Yeah, that actually led to a bunch of changes that improved the acquisitions process and look how much better we've had, we've become."

But we're not going to know that for, for quite a while. Then of course, you also have the question of, well, would we have gotten to that same end point [01:00:00] faster if we just spent all that time and effort on making the changes? Again, you, you can't ever do counterfactuals in public policy and public administration, so we're never gonna know that. But, I, I, I still think this was a lot of time spent on something that may or may not have an actual impact. I hope it does. I think there's, there's still a lot of agreement that these are some serious challenges we, that needed to be addressed. And I hope that Space Force eventually does. I guess I'm just skeptical that we'll get there or get there in a, in a, in a reasonable timeframe.

Casey Dreier: What has the international response been to this process and to the establishment of the Space Force? Do we know enough yet to see what the consequences will be in that domain?

Brian Weeden: Um, I think it's been mixed. We certainly, you know ... Certainly there has been sort of an international public response that is a more reactional response to Trump himself, and your feelings about Trump than the specifics of it. And, and some of that just had to deal with, [01:01:00] uh, just how the administration messaged on this topic. There, there were some excellent fact sheets that were put out by The Pentagon that actually talked about some of the series issues, but nobody ever read those. What they saw was Trump at a rally or Trump on TV or, or one of his surrogates really t-, you know, making hyperbolic statements. And so that, that influenced quite a bit of sort of the international public response, which I would say has been pretty negative. Although, it's based on not really knowing what's actually going on. From the other governments, there too it has been mixed.

You know, of course, the Russia and China have gone out of their way to use this too as sort of a diplomatic stick to further their argument that America is, is the bad guy in space and we're the ones that making space worse. And if only the world just signed on to the Russian and Chinese treaties banning weapons in space, everything would be great. When it comes to sort of the, all the countries in the middle of the road, you know, it's been [01:02:00] interesting. We have seen several other countries sort of inching towards or actually making some of their own reforms. Um, France comes to mind. They, um, they have had sort of a fledgling Space Corps for a while, very small couple of hundred people. Um, just over the past, this last summer, they had made a big announcement they were upgrading that to a French Space Command. So [inaudible 01:02:24] for elevating to that level, and they released a new French space strategy and space doctrine. We've seen a few other countries talking about something similar.

So diplomatically, I would say we've taken a little bit of beating from the Russians and the Chinese, but that was sort of the expected. So far, US allies, they're not against the Space Force. Some of them are a bit confused about it, they only know what's going on. But in general, they agree with sort of the underlying challenges about space becoming more contested and more competitive. And so that they, they certainly agree with.

Casey Dreier: What do you think this [01:03:00] means very broadly for space, just in a cultural or US political awareness or public awareness? Do you think it has any kind of larger meaning? The fact that there is now an established Space Force that with the, the reestablishment of US Space Command. Does that say that space itself is becoming more important in a way that it hasn't before merely by the acknowledgement and kind of bureaucratic, uh, reshuffling to focus on that specifically as a domain? Is there a big picture here beyond just the military aspect?

Brian Weeden: I think Trump's engagement on this and focus on this has absolutely elevated it within the public. The wonks have been debating these issues for 20 years but nobody ever noticed, right? It's like a bunch of academic scholars fighting about some nuance off in the corner. Now whenever I go somewhere, a taxi driver or an Uber driver or a member of the public, hears I'm talking about space they're like, "So what about the Space Force?" And there's [01:04:00] far more public awareness of the Space Force, and that there's something security related going on in space. Now, the problem as I said, is the, the factual part is not, has not been there. Because again, people are seeing the president's rhetoric and not the actual facts and details. SO there's still quite a big job to be done in actually educating them that, no, it's not about Marines on the moon. It's not about, you know, the US military going to Mars. This is about, how do we better protect our satellites? How do we better integrate satellites and services into military operations here on earth?

That message has not really gotten through. So I know, I, I guess it's a mixed bag. There's certainly more awareness, but not necessarily more facts.

Casey Dreier: Dr. Brian Weeden. I want to thank you again for joining us on the show to help explain, uh, this whole process and [01:05:00] on the national security side of space. I mean, it's a whole other world I guess. So I very much appreciate your expertise on this and hope to have you back in the future as we learn more about this new implementation and, and we see what happens.

Brian Weeden: It was my pleasure and I look forward to coming back at some point in the future.

Mat Kaplan: That's the Chief Advocate of the Planetary Society, Casey Dreier are talking with his guest, Brian Weeden. I said it before you, uh, got into it and I've now been reminded, Casey, excellent conversation. I now know much more about Space Force than, uh, than I knew or that and I bet anybody, uh, or at least most Americans and others around the world, not who haven't heard this conversation, uh, know about what has just been created in the American military.

Casey Dreier: I'm one of those people [laughing] and so I, I love this show. I get to talk to people who, uh, are much smarter than me and who help me learn about some of this stuff too. It's, it's, it's a lot of fun. And so I really thank Brian for his time. He was actually talking to us right before a major snowstorm hit Washington, DC. So again, he was very generous with his time, uh, and it's [01:06:00] probably ... Let's blame the snowstorm on the, on the poor connection quality. We'll try to do better in the future.

Mat Kaplan: Well that's another great example of what we try to bring you with, uh, the Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition. And for that matter, the weekly version of Planetary Radio. Which, uh, I hope you will tune into each week as we pick up other mostly non-policy related aspects of, uh, space science and space exploration. But Casey, it is, it has been as always a delight to talk with you on this monthly basis, uh, for the Space Policy Edition. We'll do it again in February. I want to remind people before then that, uh, that deadline is fast approaching. It will be passed by the next time we talk for the Space Policy Edition for the Day of Action. What is link again for, uh, people to learn more?

Casey Dreier: That's, uh, It's, uh, pretty straight forward. And again, I, as a reminder, if you can't join us in DC, you can pledge to take action from the comfort of your own home [01:07:00] on the same day to help all the members who are in DC with me.

Mat Kaplan: Very similar URL to, uh, Which is where I hope you will go to, uh, become part of this organization that is responsible for Space Policy Edition. And perhaps more importantly, all of the great work that Casey and his colleagues do on our behalf to, uh, make sure good things keep happening in Washington, DC on behalf of space science and space exploration. Casey, always a delight. I look forward to the next conversation. Probably, almost certainly, on the first Friday in February.

Casey Dreier: I look forward to it, Mat, as always.

Mat Kaplan: That is Casey Dreier, the Chief Advocate for the Planetary Society. I'm Mat Kaplan, the host for Planetary Radio. Do hope that you'll join us for the weekly edition of the show. We've got some great topics and great interviews coming up. Until then, wish you all the best. Ad astra.