You Can’t Escape Your Past … Even in Space: What Space Force Can Learn From The Air Corps Tactical School

“If we get this right, we will be the envy of the other services because we are not tied to the past.” This statement from Gen. Jay Raymond, the Space Force’s chief of space operations, was referring to how the service intended to establish a new culture unhindered by the legacy of its origins within the Air Force. It’s understandable why the Space Force would want to do this. After all, new institutions often seek to reinforce their independence and unique identity.

However, such an ambition is unlikely to succeed completely. First, culture is a powerful force that is virtually impossible to discard, no matter how earnestly desired. It can be difficult to break free from past institutional associations. As Bleddyn Bowen notes, the Air Force’s “embedded cultural writing remain[ed] largely intact” after independence from the Army in 1947. This tendency can be seen in a recent ceremony for the Space Force’s first enlistees, in which Gen. David Thompson jokingly told the audience that it was “pretty much the same” as the Air Force “but cooler.” Second, and more concerning, the Space Force’s future cultural development will be torn between two paths. One path centers on the quiet example of the space professionals who have spent their careers earnestly providing support for the other services. The other draws on the more outspoken but equally earnest advocates of “independent” options, as Raymond recently mentioned.