Donald Trump recently made a big announcement during a National Space Council meeting. He announced he has ordered the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to form a Space Force. This will be the sixth branch of the armed forces. One focus area will be space exploration.
Here’s what Donald Trump’s new ‘space force’ could mean for our relationship with life in space.
Why is a new military branch being created?
Trump says he wants the United States to be a powerhouse in space. This new Space Force will be like the Air Force. Said Trump during the meeting, “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space … We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal, it is going to be something.”
Where all this is coming from
So who pushed the idea of forming a U.S. Space Force? A Space Force was proposed by Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. During an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Rogers asserted China and Russia posed a challenge to the United States when it comes to space warfare. In addition, he maintained the Air Force was placing more focus on its fighter jets than space.
Preparing for the worst
Apparently, Trump agrees and wants to make sure the United States is prepared in the event of a space war. It might sound far-fetched, but anything is possible these days. Reports CNN, “The authors of the idea argued that a separate and dedicated force devoted to space is needed to keep the US ahead of adversaries like Russia and China in the still-emerging domain of space war, arguing the Air Force is primarily devoted to fighting in the air, rather than space.”
This is a big surprise
This announcement was a bit of a surprise. That’s because Trump said he added a Space Force to his national space strategy but then said he wasn’t serious about having a military presence in space. Trump changed his mind again and decided to proceed with the plan. The Space Force was originally part of the House of Representative’s version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act but congressional negotiators rejected the plan.
Should you be worried about a war in space?
So, should you be concerned about a space war? Perhaps. Gen. John Hyten said countries like Russia and China are building weapons that can target United States military assets based in space, reports CNN. “They’ve been building weapons, testing weapons, building weapons to operate from the earth in space, jamming weapons, laser weapons, and they have not kept it secret,” said Hyten in 2017 during the Reagan National Defense Forum.
Not everyone is happy about a separate Space Force
Defense Secretary James Mattis and other military officials have argued against the idea of a dedicated space force. When the idea was first presented, Mattis made his position on the issue known. In July 2017, he wrote a letter to Ohio Representative Mike Turner, one of the people who took charge of the Space Force initiative. Mattis express some strong feelings:
I strongly urge Congress to reconsider the proposal of a separate service Space Corps. At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations … Because our Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have their own equities in maintaining vital space operations, a properly integrated approach is better for carrying out this mission.
What could go wrong?
As pointed out in Mattis’ letter, it might not be such a great idea for a Space Force to exist separately. This new branch will need all the help and expertise it can get. Integrating the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines would allow for a smoother operation. Without the additional help, there could be chaos ahead.
Poor decision making has led to some famously chaotic times at the White House. For example, Brookings Institute’s Kathryn Dunn Tenpas notes how Trump’s tendency to hire people who are loyal but not necessarily qualified led to record staff turnover.
What the Space Force could mean for our relationship with life in space
Trump is hoping the Space Force will lead to an enduring U.S. presence on the Moon and even Mars. Said Trump during the National Space Council meeting, “This time, we will do more than plant our flag and leave our footprints. We will establish a long-term presence, expand our economy, and build the foundation for the eventual mission to Mars — which is actually going to happen very quickly.”
The president also said he welcomes the growing commercial space industry. He joked about making way for “rich guys” who “seem to like rockets.” Trump had encouraging words for those who are interested in doing business in space:
… I’ve always said that rich guys seem to like rockets. So, all of those rich guys that are dying for our real estate to launch their rockets, we won’t charge you too much. Just go ahead. If you beat us to Mars, we’ll be very happy, and you’ll be even more famous … I am instructing my administration to embrace the budding commercial space industry. We are modernizing out-of-date space regulations … And today we’re taking one more step to unleash the power of American ingenuity.
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