During a 22 November ceremony in Hawaii, the United States Space Force stood up its Indopacific Command (INDOPACOM) component – U.S. Space Forces, Indo-Pacific. This is the second component the Space Force has added to a combatant command (US Space Command was first) and the first one added to a geographic combatant command. With just 21 men initially, the unit will primarily perform service-specific administrative and support functions.
INDOPACOM chief Admiral John Aquilino commented on the importance of the new unit:
“Our approach requires the joint force to think, act, and operate differently by synchronizing our operations, re-aligning our posture, and advancing our warfighting capabilities. Today’s ceremony represents a tangible progression in accomplishing our mission of deterrence, while simultaneously increasing our ability to defend the homeland, protect the joint force, operate in contested space, and provide all-domain battlespace awareness.”
The new unit will be headed by Brigadier General Anthony Mastalir. Mastalir was commissioned as an air force officer in 1994 after completing Air Force ROTC: his experience primarily consisted of assignments to space and strategic missile units. Now, at INDOPACOM, Matalir will take the pressure off Admiral Aquilino by serving as the middle man between him and various space companies and government space support agencies. At the same time, Mastalir will serve as a link between INDOPACOM and Chief of Space Operations General Saltzman in Washington.
It is no secret that the reason establishing a Space Force component in the INDOPACIFIC is largely tied to the centrality of competition with China in current US strategic thinking. This was emphasized to the press by Vice Chief of Space Operations, General David Thompson:
“We were very deliberate in picking INDOPACOM. […] Every day, Secretary of Defense Austin reminds us of our pacing challenge, and that’s China. Air Force Secretary Kendall has a different way of saying it. He just comes in and says, ‘China, China, China’.”
The Space Force plans to soon establish similar components at the other combatant commands. The service also announced it will establish a new unit under US Forces Korea and at US Central Command (CENTCOM) by the end of this year.