Space Force commander explains how the new military service operates like a startup

The latest branch of the U.S. military was founded just a year ago and will celebrate its first birthday on December 20. General John W. “Jay” Raymond spoke at TC Sessions: Space and explained how the youngest military branch operates like a startup.

“In some ways, we’re a startup as well,” Gen. Raymond said. “The National Defense Authorization Act provided us a great opportunity. And that’s to be bold, think differently, start with a clean sheet of paper and build processes that work for us as needed to operate in the domain we’re responsible for.”

Gen. Raymond explained one of his mantras is “big is slow.” “And if you’re going to be a big organization, you’re going to be a slower organization,” he said, explaining that his team has worked hard over the last year to “flatten the bureaucracy, reduce layers of command, get the experts that are operating our capabilities, close to a decision-maker, or better yet pushed the decision making down to that to their level.

To this end, the Space Force is tiny compared to other branches of the military. Last week, Gen. Raymond presided over the Space Force’s first basic training graduation. This was a class of seven, who joined the 2,400 servicemen and women who make up the Space Force’s ranks.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled with how our organization construct is played out,” Gen. Raymond said. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple of our units where we have done this, and it is already paying dividends. They’re moving at a speed that we would not have been able to do in the past. I would just say every step though — every step of the way — you have to root out bureaucracy and be conscious about making sure that wherever that decision needs to be made, those folks are empowered to make that decision.

Since its founding, it’s been clear the Space Force has taken a strong stance on gender and racial equality. Gen. Raymond explained why: “We think diversity is a strength.” This doesn’t appear just to be lip service. The Space Force has so far received accolades for its gender and racial balance. The Space Force’s small size allowed Gen. Raymond to stand up a new human capital strategy “that leverages all the authorities that are out there that are that are currently largely left untapped.”

“We have an opportunity to build diversity in from day one, which we think will be a strength,” Gen. Raymond said.

Several other military officials spoke at TechCrunch Sessions: Space. Lt. General John Thompson spoke on how startups can best interact with Space Force, where he oversees research, design, development and acquisition of satellites and their associated command and control systems for the U.S. Space Force. The general is the Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Center.

Dr. Will Roper spoke about the evolution of the procurement practices that would put money into the coffers of emerging tech companies developing solutions to the most pressing problems the military sees in the skies. He’s trying to pry open the piggy bank so more of the $60 billion he manages flows into the bank accounts of entrepreneurs and startups.