Without question, the United States has military assets in space that are vital in the event of war. However, President Trump has yet to make a compelling case that these require the creation of a “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the armed forces.
Vice President Mike Pence discussed details of the White House’s plans last week, including the need for $8 billion over the next five years.
Americans, weaned on science fiction films, may envision a Star Wars-like cadet corps being trained to manage star fleets that keep peace in the solar system.
Such a thing may be necessary eventually, but it’s not needed today.
The military already has an active space presence. It uses satellites for reconnaissance, communication, the guidance of missiles and an early warning system for hostile missile launches. National security would be severely compromised if hostile forces destroyed any of these.
It would be wrong to suggest other nations aren’t actively looking for advantages in space. China has demonstrated an ability to destroy space assets, successfully targeting its own dead weather satellite a few years ago. Russia also has significant space technology. It’s not hard to imagine space battles during a war. Certainly, the United States needs to maintain superior defense and retaliatory capabilities as a deterrent.
But the Air Force currently includes space protection as part of its portfolio. All operations involve unmanned craft. There is no current need for military personnel in space.
History ought to be a guide. The Air Force itself was a part of the Army during both world wars. It became a separate military branch in 1947, only when technological advances made it clear that a separate chain of command and training structure were needed.
The day may come when outer space operations advance sufficiently that a new branch is necessary. That day isn’t here yet.
One other big consideration ought to give the nation pause before creating a Space Force.
A new branch of the military inevitably would set in motion a bureaucracy that would grow on its own. A new command would perpetually discover the need to expand.
While the United States has an obligation to maintain its military supremacy, it also cannot afford to take its eye off a growing annual deficit that is feeding an enormous national debt. It would be naïve to suggest the military isn’t already a large and unwieldy bureaucracy that is largely responsible for this deficit.25 comments on this story
Left unchecked, the nation’s current annual deficits seem destined to create a fiscal crisis that would imperil the funding of all branches of the armed forces. The prudent move would be to work on reducing all federal expenditures and increasing revenues first, rather than initiating a dramatic expansion of an already enormously expensive governmental obligation.
The president needs congressional approval to create a new branch of the military. That isn’t likely to come, at least in the short term. He may decide to create a U.S. Space Command instead, with a general in charge. This would be less ominous than a new military branch.
However, we would hope the president would enumerate a more detailed and convincing justification first.