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May the Space Force Be With You, Mr. Trump

It seems Donald Trump’s fantasy about having space force is no longer a fantasy. A few days ago, Vice President Mike Pence appeared together with Defense Secretary James Mattis to announce the Trump administration’s plan on creating the sixth branch of U.S. military.

Best-laid Plans

In his speech, Mr. Pence mentioned the new branch will have its own command, called U.S. Space Command, alongside with a Space Operations Force, which means actual starship troopers and space warfare capabilities, and the Space Development Agency, a special entity set to acquire space weaponry. He stressed that the United States are in desperate need for its own space military arm.

Space is essential to the nation’s security and prosperity,” he said. “The time has come to establish the United States Space Force. It’s not enough to have an American presence in space, we must have dominance.”

The vice president’s speech was based on a report ordered by the Congress last year in order to sort out the options of creating a separate space service. The report itself is titled Final Report on Organizational and Management Structure for the National Security Space Components of the Department of Defense. Even though it was scheduled for release the week before, its unveiling had to be postponed due to some “last minute revisions.”

Importantly, the report claims:

The Space Force will protect our economy through deterrence of malicious activities, ensure our space systems meet national security requirements, and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.”

Even though the Pentagon earlier voiced certain reservations as to the actual necessity of establishing one more military branch, now it looks like it’s in complete agreement with Donald Trump’s vision of the new space era.

“Presidential leadership and congressional support have set the environment for dramatic improvement of our national space capabilities. The president has articulated a compelling vision for a Space Force that protects the U.S. economy and way of life,” the report goes on.

It all will require the government to introduce certain changes to the U.S. law. The Department of Defense is set to compile a bill or a legislative proposal for the Congress. Still, it is said that the Space Force is unlikely to be properly established before 2020.

Finally, the report notes that Space Force will require “accountable civilian oversight.” It actually means that the administration will create a separate civilian position that will be reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense. However, this again will involve the Congress as it actually limits the number of assistant secretaries of defense.

The Washington Post, however, reported that White House officials “have been working with national security leaders to aggressively move ahead without Congress.”

Still, the questions like where to hire starship troopers, who they will be, and, most importantly, how the military resources will now be distributed within the Pentagon, are yet to be answered, let alone smaller things like uniform designs or rank structure.

However, it all will be in vain should the Congress decide there’s no need to spend enormous money on creating a new branch of the military. Back in November, the Congress has already declined a proposal to establish the Space Force. For now, given the existing political climate on the hill, it’s unclear whether it will vote it down again, especially considering the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which the United States have signed, prohibits the deployment of any weapons in space

Warring Nations and People

So, why actually the United States might need Space Force? Mike Pence suggests it’s but a reaction to the adversary moves by other nations, like Russia or China.

Our adversaries already have transformed space into a warfighting domain, and the United States will not shrink from this challenge,” he said.

This possibly refers to Russia’s and China’s testing of the technology to shoot down satellites. Thus, China shot a missile at its no longer operational weather satellite, blew it up, and thus created lots of debris on the orbit. Mike Pence called it “a highly provocative demonstration of China’s capability to militarize space.” In late 2015, China established so-called Strategic Support Force, which works with seemingly unrelated matters of space, cyber, and electronic warfare.

Russia, in turn, has its own military branch called Space Forces. They, however, are a branch of the Aerospace Forces, and mostly focus on preventing ballistic missile attacks, as well as producing, maintaining, and controlling in-orbit vessels. Still, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the country is willing to gain more power in space, and considers having dominance up there paramount to win a war down here on earth.

Still, most military-related equipment in space is used to navigate the terrain, not to wage a war among the stars, and all the leading space nations, such as the U.S., Russia, and China, have their own military objects like those, and have had them for years.

The Trump Administration’s move certainly caused some concerns in Russia and China.

Building up the military capacity in space, especially after weaponry has appeared there, would have a destabilizing effect on strategic stability and international security,” said Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry. “The most alarming thing about this news is the aim of his instruction, which is to ensure their dominance in space,” she added.

The spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang earlier also commented on Trump’s Space Force.

China always advocates the peaceful use of outer space and opposes the placement of weapons and an arms race in outer space,” he said in June 2018.

Trump’s idea of creating a Space Force has both fans and haters. The fans compare him to Ronald Reagan and his notorious Star Wars program. 

While Trump supporters express their belief in Space Force’s majestic future, senators and certain experts have a different opinion.

Thus, Democratic Senator Brian Shatz tweeted:

Senator Bernie Sanders points out that America has other needs than creating a new military branch.

Former Administrator of NASA Sean O’Keefe is also somewhat sceptical about the Space Force.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” he told Vox.

So, what is Trump’s Space Force? A new chapter for America, a doorway to a new space era? A weird way to distract the media from the unceasing scandal around Mr. Trump’s presidency, his alleged collusion with Russia, and continuing arrests of his aides? An unreasonable way to spend enormous money? A necessary thing to protect the American way of life?

Only time will tell. As well as the Congress.

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