What sounds like the plot for a B-rated movie is in fact the president’s latest proposal: a sixth branch of the military, but in space.
UPDATED 08/14/18 09:20 AM PST: Vice President Pence announced the creation of the stand-alone Space Force by 2020. Read more →
Re-purposing a phrase traditionally associated with segregation in the United States, the president said Monday that the Air Force and the newly conceived “Space Force” will be “separate but equal.”
“We must have American dominance in space. Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big step.” — the 45th president of the United States
The last time a new branch of the military was established was in 1947, when the Air Force split from the Army. The creation of another branch would require Congressional action.
Although the proposition sounds like it would result in armed astronauts patrolling asteroid belts, the reality is somewhat less exciting.
Because no one nation can claim territory in space per the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, it doesn’t really make sense to deploy traditional military personnel.
Instead, a “space force” would most likely serve to consolidate command of the military’s extensive preexisting satellite systems.
“There’s no space marines; there’s no people flying around with jetpacks.” — Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
More than simply overseeing the satellite systems, however, a “space force” or “space corps” would also play a key role in theoretical future attacks, such as an assault from anti-satellite weaponry.
“We expect space to be a contested domain. We need to anticipate that any future conflict will involve conflict in space.” — Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson
Two of the U.S.’s biggest potential enemies, Russia and China, have both conducted tests of anti-satellite weaponry designed to knock satellites from orbit. There are also ground-based lasers that are capable of blinding reconnaissance satellites, and signals that can cause GPS systems to malfunction.
On Monday evening, Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said that the policy board will proceed in carrying out the president’s order.
“Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”
Yet another distraction to keep us from focusing on the administration’s systematic abuse of human rights and deep-seated corruption.
Iron Triangle Press will continue to follow this story.