On Monday, President Donald Trump in his address to the National Space Council called for the creation of a sixth branch of the military – Space Force. Yes, Space Force.
My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation. The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers. But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security. So important for our military. So important. And people don’t talk about it.
When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. So important.
Very importantly, I’m here by directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement.
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. So important.
The actual policy directive he signed yesterday dealt with space debris which is a growing problem with the increasing number of satellites that are put into orbit. That directive made sense.
Trump has made space a priority for his administration. He revived the National Space Council that had been defunct for 24 years. In December he instructed NASA to return United States astronauts to the Moon, followed by human missions to Mars.
In March, the White House released its National Space Policy that builds on the National Security Strategy emphasizing peace through strength in the space domain. The policy affirms that any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of American space architecture that directly affects the country’s national security “will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.”
The policy also recognizes that American “competitors and adversaries have turned space into a warfighting domain.”
The White House fact sheet on the new policy also stated, “We will strengthen U.S. and allied options to deter potential adversaries from extending conflict into space and, if deterrence fails, to counter threats used by adversaries for hostile purposes.”
In May, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 2 that reformed United States commercial space regulatory framework to help ensure U.S. leadership in space commerce.
The talk of militarizing space follows an intelligence report released in February by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that notes Russia and China are developing “destructive” space weapons.
Both Russia and China continue to pursue antisatellite (ASAT) weapons as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness. Russia and China aim to have nondestructive and destructive counterspace weapons available for use during a potential future conflict. We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems. Military reforms in both countries in the past few years indicate an increased focus on establishing operational forces designed to integrate attacks against space systems and services with military operations in other domains.
Russian and Chinese destructive ASAT weapons probably will reach initial operational capability in the next few years. China’s PLA has formed military units and begun initial operational training with counterspace capabilities that it has been developing, such as ground-launched ASAT missiles. Russia probably has a similar class of system in development. Both countries are also advancing directed-energy weapons technologies for the purpose of fielding ASAT weapons that could blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.
Of particular concern, Russia and China continue to launch “experimental” satellites that conduct sophisticated on-orbit activities, at least some of which are intended to advance counterspace capabilities. Some technologies with peaceful applications—such as satellite inspection, refueling, and repair—can also be used against adversary spacecraft.
And so we are now on the cusp of a “Space Force.”
Do we really need a sixth branch of the military? Better yet, can we afford a sixth branch of the military?
With the national debt as it is this seems like the last thing we should be taking on. I understand the the importance of our sattilite reconissance network, but can’t protecting that interest be done from our current structure? After all, the Air Force has worked closely with NASA since its inception. Why create an entire branch with all of the bureaucracy that comes with it? Does protecting sattelites require the militarization of space?
How will this impact our current military commitments terra firma?
These are the types of questions the Trump administration will need to answer.