Air Force nominee vows support for Space Force, will review current plans

Kendall: If confirmed ‘I’ll evaluate the plans and directions currently being implemented’

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s nominee to be secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall  told lawmakers May 25 he will ensure the Space Force gets the necessary resources to continue to stand up units and acquire new systems.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Kendall in his opening statement shared that his six-year-old son, a Star Wars fan, is “quite excited about his dad potentially having something to do with the Space Force” and asked if the Space Force is real. 

If confirmed by the Senate, Kendall will be the highest ranked civilian leader of both the Air Force and the Space Force. He called the Space Force a “critical contributor to our national security. If confirmed, I’ll be honored to have a role in making it a success.”

The confirmation hearing on Tuesday also included nominees Heidi Shyu for undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and Susanna Blume to be director of defense cost assessment and program evaluation.

Kendall is a former U.S. Army officer and defense industry executive who served as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics during the Obama administration from 2012 until 2017. 

In written testimony, Kendall said he would commit to supporting the Space Force but specific actions are to be determined. “The first step would be to evaluate the plans and directions currently being implemented,” he said. 

As the smallest branch of the military expected to have just 16,000 members — less than one-tenth of the size of the Marine Corps — the Space Force is dependent on the Air Force for many administrative, overhead and other shared services. 

“If confirmed I will work to ensure the Space Force receives high quality and timely support in those areas,” Kendall said.

When he was head of Pentagon acquisitions, Kendall dealt with troubled space procurements and oversaw the transition of the military launch services program as commercial players like SpaceX entered the fray. 

As secretary of the Air Force, Kendall would be responsible for the reorganization of the acquisitions office. Congress last year directed the Air Force to create a separate office for a civilian space acquisition executive. Currently there is one acquisition executive for both air and space programs.

“Personally I am not convinced of the need for this position, but if confirmed I will ensure it is filled promptly with a qualified individual and that the position has the resources and support needed to be successful,” Kendall wrote in prepared testimony.

With regard to the Pentagon’s space strategy, Kendall said he endorsed the current posture that views China and Russia as competitors trying to challenge the United States’ access to space. 

“I would anticipate continued Chinese and Russian development, testing, and deployment of space and counter space capabilities as a key component of their respective operations, activities and investments,” said Kendall. 

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