The Space Force Is Coming!

The United States’ sixth military branch has the potential to save humanity if done right.

Myth:

Moonraker image ©United Artists

Reality:

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Here we are, in 2018, 35 years after President Ronald Reagan first announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed the “Star Wars” plan by the media) that would put a missile defense system in orbit around the Earth. That never happened.

If President Donald Trump has his way, it will finally come to pass — Along with a lot more.

However, before images of spaceships zipping around the Earth and Moon engaging in laser battles fills your head (too late!), the main purpose of a space force will be to ensure the security of United States property in space, which mainly consists of communications satellites.

A member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Laura Grego, says about the proposed Space Force:

“The U.S. military is strongly underpinned by a very capable satellite fleet. And the U.S. is in the middle of trying to figure out what its strategy should be to keep its satellites safe. I see this push to have a Space Force as just one other feature of doing this.”

This mission is basically a continuation of what the Air Force and NASA have already been doing for fifty years. In fact, the Air Force Space Command was formed in 1982 to focus on protecting our orbital assets that ensure communications and surveillance for our military forces, monitor the ever-expanding cloud of space debris, help support NASA rocket launches, as well as offer radar and weather services for public consumption.

The advantages of carving out a brand new branch of the military to take the reins include being able to control a larger budget specific to those tasks. However, separating out responsibilities that have been well taken care of by the AFSC for 35 years might just create more of a bureaucratic quagmire and slow down innovation and forward momentum on important projects.

This worry is prevalent even among military officials. In June of 2017, Heather Wilson, Air Force Secretary, dismissed a bill proposing a new branch of the military focused on space and told reporters:

“The Pentagon is complicated enough…This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money. If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”

The Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis actually delivered his own negative feelings about a Space Force to Congress back in July 2017, as well.

Most military service members would agree that dollars are best spent on helping to ensure victory and reducing casualties rather than on salaries for more pencil-pushers and a larger budget for red tape.

An Air Force veteran and friend of mine named Greg Priewe, former master sergeant, is a space enthusiast and great supporter of all public and private initiatives, from NASA to SpaceX, that push boundaries of what we can achieve in space. To him, a separate “Space Force” is unnecessary until we (humanity) becomes a multi-planet civilization.

The proposed Space Force does have strong supporters, though. Former executive secretary of the National Space Council Mark Albrecht says:

“Space is a place where there is now tens of billions of dollars…Everything from financial transactions to the GPS that guides your car is controlled from space, or at least facilitated by space.”

And that’s quite true. Our technological existence as we know it is inextricably linked to space at this point. It’s a massively important realm that demands dedicated attention and resources.

Other supporters of the most recent proposal include NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and a bevy of former astronauts such as David Wolf, Jack Lousma, Terry Virts, Clayton Anderson and the legendary Buzz Aldrin.

“I’d kind of like to see it have some way to clean up space debris. I’d kind of like to see it have a way to defend the earth against asteroid impacts…I bet if the dinosaurs had a space program, they’d still be here and we wouldn’t.”
-Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Despite President Trump’s desires, it will still require Congress to create a new branch of the military. Congress is currently awaiting the results of a Pentagon study they requested early in 2018 that is supposed to assess the actual need for a reorganization of existing space capabilities and programs. It’s likely Congress won’t make any final decisions on the implementation of a Space Force until after those recommendations arrive. Based on how much of the current military regime seems to feel, the Space Force may not actually come to be at this time.

Though it would cost at least $13 billion over its first five years of operation, the Space Force would be taking over the space activities currently assumed by a whole host of agencies: NASA, NOAA, the Army, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Navy, the Air Force, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Strategic Capabilities Office.

This isn’t really a bad thing, however. As has been proven in the past, whenever the U.S. military-industrial complex becomes enamored with any new realm, spending on R&D and production increases vastly. This will spur tremendous innovation, much of which will trickle down as technological improvements to our everyday lives while creating many new millionaires (and billionaires) in the process.

But, as we expand our reach into the Solar System and begin to colonize Mars and look toward the moons of the gas giants and the resource potential of the asteroid belt, the need for a true Space Force will definitely increase and become unavoidable.

Where humanity goes, so goes conflict, and we’d best be prepared for good or ill.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

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