May the Force Make Sense
Terry H. Schwadron
June 20, 2018
President Trump has a unique sense of timing, if nothing else. His internal clock bears absolutely no sense of anything remotely logical, but fits entirely with his chosen persona as disrupter-in-chief.
That’s as close as I can get to understanding why, in the middle of uncertainties about nuclear weapon development in North Korea and Iran, while the United States engages in an expensive trade war and battles with busting spending limits, while America First pursues an isolationist position, this is the moment for “Space Force.”
The president’s announcement — seemingly once again without benefit of research, thought, or financial or diplomatic sense — that we need to start to create a sixth branch of the armed forces to be a dominant, belligerent force in the skies above, once again is landing with an immediate thud.
Here we are unable to resolve how to deal with 12,000 immigrant children, how to provide health care, how to balance budgets made swollen by unpaid for tax cuts, and the president’s sudden priority is for a Space Force that seemed to arrive a few months ago as a punchline to an internal joke.
Let’s consider his announcement this week: Once again, it came across as a shiny object to distract attention from a dozen other assorted policy issues and scandals over which Trump has no control. But one again, slogan-like, the president offers the idea as a chance for America to declare “dominance,” but skipping over all of the details, like existing international treaties against weaponizing space and, say, the cost of creating another service. And, that minor detail, that an act of Congress is required to establish a new branch of the military.
Just as a gauge, the current annual Air Force budget is $156 billion. Space forces would need, say, rockets and support, new satellites, tracking and monitoring equipment and maybe, just maybe something that eventually would look like Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars Initative” weaponry — all pretty expensive stuff.
You would think that part of introducing such an expansive idea might be to seriously outline the threats that we face as Americans. Indeed, it seems logical that protecting U.S. satellites also protects military planning and tactics altogether, for monitoring and targeting land activities around the world.
Trump that the branch would weirdly be “separate but equal,” a phrase oddly lifted from the historic desegregation court case, from the Air Force and that Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would oversee its creation. “It is not enough to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said, adding that he didn’t want to see “China and other countries leading us.” Dunford’s staff said they would work closely with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, other Defense Department officials and Congress to “implement the President’s guidance.”
“Space is a warfighting domain, so it is vital that our military maintains its dominance and competitive advantage in that domain,” the White House statement said.
The United States is a signer of 1967 The Outer Space Treaty, which bars states from testing weapons and establishing military bases on the moon and other celestial bodies. It also prohibits the placement of weapons of mass destruction in orbit around Earth. Both China and Russia have signed that treaty, though it has no are no enforcement mechanism. The United States has tested unmanned space planes, and others have shot down declining satellites in space, with no repercussions.
A new, separate service would move the Air Force Space Command to be on par with other military services to on space and cyberspace operations, including the management and launch of satellites that provide Global Positioning System coordinates, weather and navigational data, and surveillance of everything from militant groups to potential ballistic missile launches. We would also have a separate NASA, to focus on space exploration and scientific discovery. The screation of the Space Force would mark the first time that the military has created a new branch since the 1947 National Security Act, in which Congress directed a massive overhaul of the military after World War II. It merged the Department of War and the Navy Department and created the Air Force from the Army Air Forces.
The proposal has faced opposition from the Pentagon previously, mostly on the idea of adding unnecessary cost and bureaucracy. Mattis told the Senate Armed Service Committee so last October. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, dean of the Air Force Association-founded Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told reporters the decision to create a Space Force as “another example of ready, fire, aim.”
The president also reasserted plans to land astronauts on the moon again and, eventually, Mars.
Hey, the president’s call could have been worse. He might have demanded a Space Wall to keep illegal aliens from entering U.S. air space. May the Force be with you.