Advent of the Space Force

  • Published
  • By Major Anna Beier-Pedrazzi

The JAG Corps’ Role in Building the USSF

The JAG Corps has provided significant legal support to the U.S. Space Force (USSF) since its creation. Such support has included assistance with drafting and updating foundational publications, advising on major efforts and initiatives, participating in Congressional engagements, and providing support for confirmation hearings. The JAG Corps continues to serve its important role as legal adviser to the USSF.

VIDEO | 02:43 | Space Force Origins

United States Space Force

On 20 December 2019, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020[1] established the USSF, which marked the first time in 73 years that a new Service was created.[2] The USSF is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping space forces. The lineage of the Space Force dates to 1954 when the U.S. Air Force (USAF) created a unit responsible for overseeing its ballistic missile arsenal. After several decades and several reorganizations, in 1982, the USAF stood up Air Force Space Command, a major command that included a USAF-staffed legal office. The FY20 NDAA redesignated Air Force Space Command as the U.S. Space Force.

Support to Leadership

Since the USSF became a separate Service, the JAG Corps has been instrumental in supporting the Space Force’s leadership. The JAG Corps helped the USSF establish the Office of the Chief of Space Operations (CSO), commonly referred to as the Space Staff. The Space Staff supports the CSO, who serves as the principal uniformed adviser to the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) on Space Force activities. The CSO transmits plans and recommendations to SecAF and acts as the Secretary’s agent in carrying them out. JAG Corps support to USSF leadership includes advising on legislative proposals as well as providing support in anticipation of confirmation hearings, including in November 2022, when the USSF accomplished its first-ever change in office as General John W. Raymond retired, and General B. Chance Saltzman assumed USSF leadership as CSO.

Organizational Design

The JAG Corps has played a critical role in advising on the organizational design of the USSF. The FY20 NDAA directed SecAF to provide Congress a comprehensive plan for the organizational structure of the USSF. The JAG Corps provided detailed guidance and feedback to this report, enabling the USSF to pursue its objective of being lean, agile, and mission-focused. The USSF has a flatter hierarchy consisting of three levels: field commands led by three-star generals; deltas led by colonels; and squadrons led field grade officers. USAF judge advocates now advise at all these levels of command. During this early phase of USSF development, the JAG Corps provided options regarding the support the USAF would provide to USSF installations. As part of this process, judge advocates ensured compliance with relevant laws and regulations and drafted supporting documents such as memoranda of agreement and inter-departmental agreements. The JAG Corps continues to ensure the legal sufficiency of all organizational change requests, including structure and mission statements, as more units are activated or redesignated.


As part of the organizational design of the USSF, the JAG Corps ensured the legal, regulatory, and policy requirements were met to transition the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and Space Development Agency (SDA) to Direct Reporting Units (DRUs) in the USSF. DRUs are entities outside the standard organizational hierarchy that have specialized, restricted, and unique missions that report directly to headquarters. The Space RCO and the SDA are two of the USSF’s three acquisitions organizations. The Space RCO was established in the FY18 NDAA, which called for improvements to defense acquisitions.[3] Since its inception, Space RCO has been assigned a judge advocate to facilitate efficiencies and has continued JAG support within its organization. In October 2020, Space RCO was designated as a DRU of USSF. The SDA, responsible for rapid delivery of space-based capabilities to the joint warfighter, was transferred to the USSF on 1 October 2022.[4]

Foundational Publications

The JAG Corps collaborated to develop a uniform means of addressing the USSF in current and future Department of the Air Force publications. The result of this collaboration was standardized language designed to specifically incorporate, where appropriate, the USSF into departmental publications. Additionally, judge advocates remained integral to working groups shaping and drafting mission directives for USSF leadership offices. Judge advocates at the Pentagon and the LeMay Center are also closely involved in USSF efforts to draft operational concepts and doctrine.

Transfers from Other Services

The FY20 NDAA gave SecAF the authority to transfer personnel to USSF and directed the transfer of space-related assets. A recent example is the transfer of the U.S. Army’s satellite communications mission to the USSF on 15 August 2022.[5] This transfer marked an historic moment for the Department of Defense as all military satellite communication capabilities were brought under one Service for the first time. In 2021, the USSF received approval to transfer eleven Army and four Navy organizations to the USSF.[6] Judge advocates supported the successful transfer of missions, assets, and personnel from other Services. The JAG Corps also ensured that the transfers met reporting obligations to Congress.

Education & Partnerships

The JAG Corps ensured the legal sufficiency of memoranda of understanding to enable the USSF’s university partnership program (UPP). The UPP is designed to foster collaboration and harness innovation between the USSF and academic institutions with a focus on developing leaders in engineering, science, and technology.[7] With the help and guidance of the JAG Corps, the USSF designed the UPP to identify, develop, and retain a diverse STEM-capable force. Additionally, as the USSF established its own professional military education program, judge advocates shaped the program to meet statutory requirements.

Holistic Health

Since its inception, the USSF has sought to implement a holistic health program. This program endeavors to go beyond traditional physical fitness testing requirements and pairs fitness with education on diet, sleep hygiene, and other physiological factors to promote total health.[8] As part of exploring options for a holistic fitness assessment, the USSF issued volunteer Guardians wearable fitness trackers as a trial initiative. Judge advocates provided guidance on applicable contract, privacy, and security matters. As the USSF fitness program takes shape, the JAG Corps will remain engaged to help shape a truly tailored holistic health program that meets legal and security requirements.

A Space Force Reserve?

The JAG Corps remains heavily involved with USSF top leadership discussions on the right balance for the Service. Thus far, the USSF has trended toward having a single component force rather than separate active and reserve components. They are instead exploring other possible ways to provide service options, with JAG Corps guidance on these various options. One model is the full-time/part-time model. The idea behind a single component comprised of full-time and part-time members is that such a structure would enable recruitment of a larger talent pool. Another benefit is that part-time Guardians could potentially front load their time to later take more time for having a family or finishing a degree, which may have a positive impact on retention. The Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act allows for this full-time and part-time system to take effect.

USSF Service Components

In late 2022, the JAG Corps supported the USSF as it activated the first USSF service components to U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). A service component command consists of the service component commanders and those forces under that command. In the Pacific, the activation included a detachment service component commander under USINDOPACOM to United States Forces–Korea. As service components evolve and expand across other combatant commands, JAG Corps personnel will continue to support to the Space Staff and service components in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Since the establishment of the USSF in 2019, the JAG Corps has played a vital role in supporting the USSF at all echelons. The JAG Corps has seamlessly embedded judge advocates to provide legal advice to space professionals across the space enterprise. The JAG Corps helped establish the USSF’s legal framework, supported its organizations, provided guidance and assistance for all major efforts and Congressional engagements, and guided its integration with the joint force. As the USSF continues to evolve and grow, JAG Corps personnel will be there every step of the way to provide timely and accurate legal guidance to ensure the success of this important new Military Service.


About the Author

Major Anna Beier-Pedrazzi

Major Anna Beier-Pedrazzi, USAF

(B.A., Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California; J.D., University of California, Davis, Davis, California; M.A., Joint Warfare, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama; LL.M., Air and Space Law, McGill University, Montreal, Canada) is currently assigned as a Space Law Attorney, Space Law Division, Operations and International Law Directorate, Office of The Judge Advocate General, Washington D.C.
Edited by: Major Allison K.W. Johnson (Editor-in-Chief), Major Victoria H. Clarke, Major Brianne L. Seymour and Major Andrew H. Woodbury
Layout by: Thomasa Huffstutler



[1] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Pub. L. No. 116-92, 133 Stat. 1198 (2019).
[2] U.S. Space Force, USSF History, (last visited May 2, 2023). 
[3] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. 115-91, 131 Stat. 1283 (2017).
[4] Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, Space Development Agency transfers to USSF (Oct. 1, 2022),
[5] Anna-Marie Wyant, Army transfers satellite communications mission to USSF: All military SATCOM under one service for first time, Space Operations Command News (Aug. 15, 2022),
[6] Sandra Erwin, Space Force reveals which Army and Navy units are moving to the space branch, SPACENEWS (Sept. 21, 2021),
[7] Lynn Kirby, USSF, UND sign MOU establishing University Partnership Program, Space Force News (Aug 9, 2021),
[8] David Roza, The Space Force wants to try ditching physical fitness tests for a year, Task & Purpose (Mar. 18 2022, 9:27 AM),