Extended Commentary: Ad Astra: The Future of Military Space Operations.

The next ten years of U.S. Military advancements and operational capabilities are looking rather promising in the theater of space. As far back as the founding of NASA in 1958, the military has trained and prepared its personnel across all branches for space operations. Recent training examples for service members include digital intelligence, anti-cyberterrorism, remote air defense, and further training in aerospace and field survival exercises. What is even more important is the military's support of efforts operating in space that go beyond regular warfare as we understand it on Earth. Space is the next frontier of military operations that strategists and tacticians in the defense industry are currently preparing for and this discussion will illustrate how they are implementing it in technology training, government policy, law, and private business in the effort to grow society into this projected new future.

What the military is already prioritizing for space operations by means of building, testing, and training, is the latest technology that will govern the new area of operations. The agency poised to lead in the endeavors of advancing this technology is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the Department of Defense. Created in 1958 in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik the year before, DARPA works on projects that look to the future rather than responding simply to the current needs of the country. Besides the very nature of DARPA's business being the creation of groundbreaking technology such as drones, GPS, and the internet itself, DARPA's organizational strategy is geared towards implementing innovative projects shared between military branches, the science based federal agencies, private sector and national universities all working in tandem under DARPA's administration. This model of partnership and interdependence has been borrowed by government, and nongovernment, research labs and teams outside of DARPA's authority so breakthroughs can be met faster and simultaneously. (1) The organizational structure of DARPA as an agency is also what has proven to be the model to lead the United States and its partners towards more advanced space technology and weaponry. DARPA follows a very specific working hierarchy between the three levels of Directors, Program Managers, and Administrators, as technology developments are researched and reviewed at every level and cross checked between the others. The ultimate key to DARPA's organizational success is fielding revolutionary research from universities so the best and newest scientists are contributing to the creation of future tech. This organizational model has since been borrowed by federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Health (NIH), and a platitude of international research agencies partnered with DARPA to increase space technology that is innovative, protective of its users and deadly to its adversaries. (2)

What is arguably the most important factor of DARPA's leadership in developing new technology, but especially space age technology, is how it funds projects compared to most labs and think tanks. As federal agencies go, DARPA has a relatively small annual budget of $3 billion dollars. A smaller budget has pushed DARPA to be more selective of the projects they decide to take on, which is the opposite business practice of both private and public think tanks who "just throw money at projects." DARPA's selective process has produced technological advances at greater speeds than their counterparts that have applications both in space and on Earth. These projects include computer network systems, neuro sensory technologies and prosthetics. (3) DARPA's organizational policies have continued to show the efficiency of budgetary prioritization and has produced some of the most groundbreaking space age technology that the agency itself can take credit for. DARPA is currently in Phase 1 development of its Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node Program (Space-BACN), where eleven teams are compiling a digital communication tool between orbited government and commercial satellites in the wake of a growing private space travel industry and the current changes being made in government space policy regarding the International Space Station (ISS). (4) Possibly the most important reason why DARPA is being considered to lead in space age military technology is because of their history in strict research and oversight into its projects potential drawbacks and abuses so they can be avoided. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been under scrutiny for a large portion of the twenty-first century in both private and public circles. With the concern about AI being abused and being misused, DARPA has gone to great lengths to ensure AI programs will not put military personnel at risk in both Earth-based and space-based environments and that AI systems are always supervised by a human element. (5) DARPA and its many partners will be instrumental in developing the technology for the new battlefields and space and the personnel who will be trained to carry out those conflicts.

Based on this assessment, every branch of the U.S. Military is going to be trained in space operations with the additional military occupational specialties added for recruits and personnel in the near future. Besides initiating training that prepares personnel for planning operations in space, the DOD is poised to also train personnel on how those planning operations would be structured and what their priorities would be. The Air Force and the Army have collaborated on developing such training guidance. While working within U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force and Army leadership has focused in on two main standard operating procedures to govern space...

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