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It’s a dumb idea to make Trump’s Space Force its own military branch

Vice President Mike Pence today unveiled the Trump administrations plans to form a sixth military branch called Space Force. Its a stupid idea. As a major science nerd, Star Wars fanatic, and lover of the cosmos the thought of Trumps Space Force causes my inner child to leap for joy and make weird laser sounds. But Im not a child. Im a grown up and a military veteran. And the US armed forces shouldnt be anyones fantasy factory. Don't get your hopes up. Before we go any further, Id like to make it perfectly clear that, were this bad idea to become a reality, my criticism of the program is in no way meant to disrespect the brave people whove served or will serve in the military. This isnt about our nations warriors, its about politics. We dont need a Space Force, plain and simple. Heres four reasons why: The United States Air Force Space Command, established over 35 years ago, is headquartered in Colorado. More than 20,000 military personnel perform missions for Space Command, ranging from deploying and monitoring satellites to guarding against ballistic missiles. It seems silly to form an entirely new branch, just to cover the same duties. This isnt the same thing as when the US Army spun out the Air Force. That was to fill a total void in our countrys defense capabilities. In fairness, Pence today said that Space Force wouldnt be built from scratch, but would instead draw upon existing infrastructure. So the question is, will the Air Force just detach Space Command and supplement it with troops and officers from the other branches, or does the Federal government plan to make the existing branches foot the bill by contributing resources from their own budgets? A better idea would be to sharpen the Air Forces focus and put Space Forces budget into Space Command. Especially since, reportedly, that budget isnt going to be very high. Pence also said today that President Trump wanted to budget $8 billion dollars for Space Force over the next five years. Thats $1.6 billion a year. What kind of bargain bin Space Force are we going for here? An aircraft carrier group in the US Navys fleet costs almost a billion dollars a year to operate. And the construction of the Navys newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, cost nearly $13 billion. The Air Force, along with its Space Command, had a budget of nearly $170 billion last year. Im not sure how much of that specifically went to its space endeavors, but Id be willing to make a game show guess it was more than $1.6 billion. By comparison, NASA got almost $20 billion in 2017, and it doesnt have to concern itself with national defense. My point: $8 billion is chump change for a military effort. So what, exactly, is it that Space Force is supposed to do for pennies on the dollar compared to the Navy and Air Force budget, that those branches dont already do? Its mission cant involve a lot of space craft with a budget so small. It doesnt seem like a robust military branch, but a cheap publicity stunt. But people die in the military every single day — even when they arent at war. The military, including any future Space Force, isnt a joke. Unfortunately for my narrative here, Space Force actually began as a joke. Trump was talking to Marines at Miramar (you know, the Marine Corps base where expert pilots from the Navy and Corps train to be Top Guns) about defense spending when he went off script to talk about space, quoting himself somehow: I said, maybe we need a new force, well call it the Space Force, and I was not really serious. Then I said, what a great idea, maybe well have to do that. Im starting to think its not about space or the military, but about invigorating voters. As reported by The Verge, the Trump/Pence PAC just sent emails out asking people to vote on Space Forces logo — ahead of merchandising. And, based on the Twitter reactions Ive seen, the public seems to like the Mars badge the most. It looks like Space Force and Trumps plans to go to Mars are tied together — which only makes sense politically. The Trump/Pence PAC is already trying to monetize the Space Force: "As a way to celebrate President Trumps huge announcement, our campaign will be selling a new line of gear. " Dont get me wrong I believe we need to send a manned mission to Mars. But I cant think of a conceivable reason why the military needs to be worried about going to other planets when were currently fighting the longest war in our nations history right here on Earth. NASA and the private sector seem to have Mars under control. But maybe the Trump administration has top secret information on aliens that makes a Starship Troopers scenario likely. In that case, Im overwhelmingly positive well need to spend far more than $8 billion. Im not the only one who thinks Space Command doesnt need to be its own branch, the brass seems to agree. Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James recently told listeners at the Brookings Institution she believe Space Force wasnt a good idea because: It is a virtual certainty that it will be a huge undertaking that will consume a lot of time, effort, thinking. I do not believe we should have a separate space force. The myriad of details which people joke about, the academies, the uniforms and what not, those may seem trivial but they are details that need to be worked out. According to a CNBC report, James said shed spoken with members of the Pentagons leadership who told her that they thought it was a bad idea. She said, none of them are in favor of a space force but they are stuck. The president has said it and it will be interesting to see how they now deal with it. Hopefully the adults in the Pentagon, whove yet to commit to creating an entirely new branch, will find a way to stow Trumps outlandishly irresponsible scheme. Itll waste billions of dollars reinventing the wheel — a wheel the US Air Force already has. And, having served in numerous capacities alongside warriors in the US Air Force, Im quite confident in the capabilities of our current fighters to defend us from threats both here on Earth and above the clouds, and their ability to adapt as the mission requires. And they deserve that same confidence from their Commander In Chief.

US targets 2020 for the creation of a Space Force

In a speech before the Department of Defense at the Pentagon today, Vice President Mike Pence outlined the broad contours of the new Space Force that the Trump administration wants to create as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. Emphasizing the need to both further militarize and privatize space as a new war-fighting domain, Pence stressed that the new branch of the military is targeted for a 2020 implementation date. The administration is pushing for $8 billion in new space spending. While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, private property and the rule of law, said Pence. As we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry Americas commitment to freedom into this new frontier. Pence cited threats from North Korea, Russia, China and Iran to the safety of the U.S. space program. Newer threats include the Chinese governments 2007 launch of a satellite-destroying missile and the development of hypersonic missiles that can evade U.S. missile defense capabilities. The Chinese government has set up a separate division within its own military to address space as a war-fighting domain, Pence said. Our adversaries have transformed space into a war-fighting domain already. It is not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space, Pence said quoting the president. What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial. To advance its goals of creating the new Space Force, the Trump administration had commissioned the Department of Defense to issue a report on the necessary steps to create the new military branch. The creation of a new branch of the military — the first since the Air Force was created in the wake of World War II in 1947 — could require a significant reorganization of the Pentagon. And some officials within the military and national security communities fiercely oppose the idea. The Air Force in particular is opposed to the idea, because it might lose key responsibilities. The proposal would also need congressional approval. In a report that will be issued later today, the DOD outlined four steps. The first is the creation of a United States Space Command that will coordinate the nations space-fighting capabilities. Pence likened it to the special operations command established in the 1980s that provided unified command and control capabilities for mobilizing terrestrial air, sea and land forces. This new command structure for the physical domain of space, led by a four-star flag officer will… develop the space war-fighting doctrine and tactics of the future. As part of the space plan, the Department of Defense will also create a new space operations force that will be an elite group of joint war fighters specializing in the war-fighting domains of space, according to Pence. Theyll support the space combat and command and carry out space missions. Third, a new joint organization called the Space Development Agency will be created to develop new technologies for the space force. While our adversaries have been busy weaponizing space, we have been bureaucratizing it, Pence said. He pointed to the creation of the intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Navys nuclear fleet as examples of American military innovation and achievement from past initiatives. (Its a good thing he didnt bring up the Air Forces half-a-trillion-dollar drone boondoggle of a new fighter plane.) Finally, the process of creating the new organization will require oversight, which will include the creation of a new civilian position that will report to the secretary of defense, Pence said. That position will be called the assistant secretary of defense of space. Just as weve done in ages past, the United States will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield, Pence said. The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.