The future of space: Col. Jesse Morehouse working to build up U.S. Space Command

Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Trevor Nolan
Jesse Morehouse stands in front of the U.S. Space Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, where he is putting his military space expertise to use in helping to stand up the newest unified command.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Some may know Jesse Morehouse as the IT director for Archuleta School District, or remember when he was a computer science teacher at Pagosa Springs High School, or know that he serves in the military, among other roles he takes on in the community.

But not everyone may know that the colonel, who serves in the Colorado Army National Guard and has been in the military for 25 years, is probably one of the more qualified people in the National Guard in the nation when it comes to expertise in military space operations.

That knowledge is now being put to use in the form of a deployment to Colorado Springs, where Morehouse is currently working full-time to help stand up the U.S. Space Command, which was created by President Donald Trump last fall.

The U.S. Space Command, led by Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, a four-star general, focuses on military operations in space. 

Raymond, in addition to being the commander for Space Command, is also chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force and the senior commander of all space unified military forces, according to a fact sheet on the command’s website.

“United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) is the newest of the eleven unified commands in the Department of Defense (DoD). USSPACECOM increases the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence, reduces decision timelines for space operations, and brings focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space. Establishing USSPACECOM is a critical step in accelerating the ability of the Joint Force to defend vital national interests and deter adversaries,” the fact sheet explains.

“As a member of the National Guard, I got called up because I have a significant amount of expertise in military space operations and I’ve served in military space-types of assignments for over 10 years,” Morehouse explained.

Morehouse has served in a wide variety of space-related duty assignments, with the colonel explaining some of those assignments have included being a team leader on a team that advises commands led by three-star generals on how to integrate space operations into their military, being a battalion commander for one of the three space battalions in the Army and the only in the National Guard, and deploying to the Middle East to work in space operations there.

“When that was stood up, there was a requirement suddenly for many, many people with space expertise, and there’s not enough people in the active military across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and now Space Force to fill all the positions,” Morehouse explained, noting that each branch of the military is working to train more people in space, but with the creation of Space Command, there was a sudden need for more people than were being trained and they reached into the Reserves and National Guard for people with space experience to fill some of the positions needed. “Through that process, they called me up.”

Morehouse was called up in January and anticipates the deployment will be for a full year.

Morehouse is serving as the space policy and doctrine division chief under the U.S. Space Command future plans directorate.

“I’m the person who coordinates the inputs from United States Space Command on any space policy or doctrine types of issues,” Morehouse explained. “So, for instance, when we’re talking about what should appropriate, responsible behaviors look like for satellite operators in space, there’s a piece of that, there’s an input to that government-wide conversation that comes out of United States Space Command, and I’m the person who coordinates from all the different experts who we have within the Command to come up with what our collective input into that conversation should be.”

Those things are important, he noted, because what the U.S. government agrees should be responsible, appropriate behaviors the country will follow oftentimes become internationally accepted norms and behaviors.

“So, it’s really important to get ‘em right, and also to make sure that we don’t decide to do things that might not be a good idea for us in the future,” he said.

To accomplish his charge, Morehouse explained he organizes and facilitates planning sessions and they do a lot of reviews of policies that other branches of the government are proposing that involve a space component such as satellites or operations with satellites.

Morehouse is also responsible for the revisions within the DoD for space doctrine — the guiding tenets used for operating in space.

The colonel also revealed one of his team’s missions over the last few weeks was to prepare representatives from the U.S. for discussions taking place in Vienna, Austria, between Russian and U.S. delegations. 

Those talks are reported to include security in space and nuclear arms control.

“This is definitely an interesting time to be involved in space,” Morehouse wrote in an email to The SUN.

The U.S. military has been in space operations since shortly after World War II when it launched military rockets into space for the first time, Morehouse explained, but much of what it is involved in now is because the space environment has changed a lot over the last decade.

He further explained, “other nations who are potential competitors to the United States have vastly increased their presence in space, and now you have a lot of commercial companies who are also fielding many more satellites in space than you’ve ever seen -— you know, hundreds and hundreds more satellites than … in all of previous … years combined, with new capabilities and new ideas on what to do in space. So, it’s becoming a much more congested environment with many different people who have many different ideas about what they want to do there.”

The role of the U.S. military in that environment, he suggested, is to, as much as possible, guarantee the highest level of stability so governments and commercial entities can “all prosper and can pursue their objectives in a safe and orderly way.”

Intelligence plays a huge part, Morehouse explained, noting there are very high classification levels involved in everything Space Command does.

“One of the refrains in any domain of military operations is that intelligence drives operations, like you can’t do anything well if you don’t understand what’s going on really well first,” he said.

Intelligence is twofold, he explained, with one part being where you get it from and the other part being what kind of technology is used to gather the intelligence.

“Every government is going to keep their capabilities, … they’re going to play those capabilities close to their chest, right? They don’t want other nations or potential competitors to gain insights into what technology is truly being used by that nation,” he said.

Morehouse noted that Space Command is working hard to try to reduce the classification level of anything it can to be more transparent, both about what the U.S. is doing and what potential adversaries are doing.

“Part of the conversation is to speak frankly about the actions of ourselves and others, and highlight the things that we’re doing that are responsible and try to advocate for those to become more widely accepted,” he said.

Morehouse also indicated that Space Command is using the strengths of the U.S. and other nations to create partnerships among nations that could prove beneficial both now and in the future.

“The United States military has the best what we call, like a space surveillance network, out of any country in the world,” Morehouse said, meaning the U.S. can see what’s in orbit and track different things in space better than any other nation, from satellites down to space junk and debris.

“All of that information we actually share with other space-faring nations, so we give them that data set so they can analyze it and … make more responsible choices with their own satellites,” he said. “And then we also issue warnings if the computer models make it look like two satellites might be coming close to each other at some point in the future so that the operators know that maybe they need to maneuver a little bit to make things safe.”

The U.S., he explained, also enters into agreements with other countries where the U.S. will give that country better data if that country can help the U.S. with whatever they specialize in in terms of space-oriented technologies.

“We figure out how we can create win-win situations where we can partner with each other,” he said, adding that one of Space Command’s initiatives is to increase partnerships between space-faring nations so there is already trust when “stickier” problems arise.

The future of space, he suggested, will be interesting and will come with opportunities for global partnerships.

“When you think about space, … a lot of people think about it in terms of science fiction movies that they’ve seen or maybe some dated excerpt of going to the moon or whatnot, and I think that one of the key takeways for everyone is that space is a medium that provides a lot of potential for the human race and the United States of America,” he said, adding later, “I think that we’re poised on a very interesting future when it comes to how we use space. I don’t think it’s going to look like sci-fi movies, but I do think that we’re all going to enjoy the benefits of a continued exploration and exploitation of the space environment. And I think … the future of space is going to be a real interesting one.”

This story was posted on August 12, 2020.