As it stands now, the new U.S. Space Force has one member: its commander, Space Force Gen. John W. Raymond. But there will be more — enlisted, commissioned officers and civilian members will be part of the new force before the end of the year.
Those who are currently assigned to, but aren't members of the Space Force say bringing aboard new personnel will take some time to get right.
"The commissioning and enlistment and appointment of officers and enlisted members of a military service, much of that is controlled by law, statute and Congress," said Air Force Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, vice commander of U.S. Space Force, during a Feb. 5 discussion at the Pentagon. "That's the first part. We need to go through a process with Congress to have them authorize, provide authorization for specific names and specific individuals to transfer into that service. And we are working with Congress on that right now, and that will take a little bit of time."
Thompson also said that, similar to the other military services, those who commission or enlist have expectations regarding benefits, pay and other things. Those details haven't yet been worked out for the Space Force, he said, but they have to be in place before new members can come aboard.
"The last thing we want to have happen as we go through this process with excitement and enthusiasm and people are happy, ... but then they don't get paid."
Air Force Maj. Gen. Clint E. Crosier, director of the U.S. Space Force planning office, explained in more detail the significance of transferring from an existing service into the new service.
"We want to be very deliberate about the transfer process," Crosier said. "The transfer piece involves raising your right hand — because, literally, our enlisted members are terminating their enlistment in the U.S. Air Force or Army or Navy and enlisting in the Space Force. And our officers are resigning their commissions. That's a very formal process."
Changes regarding financial management, personnel systems and even the Uniform Code of Military Justice will all need to be addressed before new members can come aboard, he said, so that when people formally leave their prior service and come into the Space Force, everything is ready for them and it's a smooth transition.
Eventually, the Space Force will recruit new members directly from the civilian world. But initially, Crosier said, Space Force will fill its ranks with personnel who transfer in from the Air Force, the Army or the Navy. That mix of cultures will mean the new service will need a plan to ensure that personnel coming in are treated equally, he noted.
"You can imagine then — fast forward to a time in the future where I hold my first promotion board and I have ex-naval officers and ex-Army officers and ex-Air Force officers all meeting a common promotion board and ensuring I have fair and equitable way to run that board so that everybody has a fair chance of getting promoted," Crosier said.
Air Force personnel will be the first to transfer into the Space Force in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. Thompson said all of the Air Force's space operations capabilities will transfer into the Space Force. Ultimately, officers and enlisted personnel currently involved in things such as space operations, space intelligence, space acquisition, space engineering, space communications and space cyber may transfer into the Space Force.
After that, Crosier said, the new service will do the planning to account for the different cultures, different promotions processes and different training processes that incoming personnel from the other services are familiar with.
"So that when we are ready to ask Army and Navy folks to raise their right hand and transfer, that we have got all those pieces in place," Crosier said.
One thing unknown now, Thompson said, is what members of the Space Force will be called. Already, the U.S. military has soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. But Space Force has yet to decide what it will call its own personnel.
"We are taking steps to broaden our aperture and bring in a larger set of groups," Thompson said. The Space Force is looking to Defense Language Institute, the language department at the Air Force Academy, and other English and language centers, as well as to its own people, to come up with the best possible suggestions for names, he added.
The service has "a couple of really strong options on what we might be called, and some pretty strong opinions," Thompson said. "But what we would like to do is ensure we've thought as broadly as we can, gotten the opinions of the people who matter ... and considered as best as we can what that ought to be, before we land on an answer."