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Pentagon creates new top civilian job for overseeing space policies and planning

Justin T. Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, discusses the "New Race for Space: Successes and Challenges in the Final Frontier" at a virtual Heritage Foundation event, Oct. 7, 2020.

JACK SANDERS/U.S. AIR FORCE

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has created a new top civilian job to oversee all of the Defense Department’s space-related planning in a move that elevates the position of its senior space policy maker, defense officials announced Friday.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 called for an assistant secretary of defense for space policy along with an office of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, both of which were established Thursday, according to a Pentagon statement.

“The [assistant secretary] will be the senior official responsible for the overall supervision of DoD policy for space warfighting,” the statement says. “In addition, [the assistant secretary] is responsible for interagency coordination and international engagement on space policy and strategy.”

The new assistant secretary position, which will report to the undersecretary of defense for policy, requires a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. The Pentagon did not state whether anyone has been nominated yet. Until that happens, Justin Johnson has been designated as the official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, according to the Pentagon.

Johnson had been working as the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy when it was under the office of the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security. Now the position is being realigned under the new office of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, according to Lt. Col. Uriah Orland, a Pentagon spokesman.

The new assistant secretary position will join five other assistant secretaries that oversee different policy areas, including Indo-Pacific security affairs and international security affairs.

Gregory Pejic has also been chosen to serve as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy until someone has been appointed for the position. Pejic has been working as a special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, Orland said.

“The establishment of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy is a change of the civilian oversight of the space enterprise that aligns with the establishment of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command,” David Norquist, the deputy secretary of defense, said in a prepared statement.

Space Force is the newest branch of military and was officially established December 2019 under the Department of the Air Force. The branch has already started enlisting recruits and activated Space Operations Command on Oct. 21 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., which is the first of three field commands, according to a news release. This Space Force field command provides Space Force personnel and capabilities such as intelligence and cyber support to U.S. Space Command, a combatant command established August 2019.

kenney.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @caitlinmkenney