The President, love him or hate him certainly knows how to make a splash. And he definitely did just that on Monday afternoon when he signed an executive order directing the Pentagon to create a new ”Space Force,” which will certainly anger the Air Force.
The President’s purposely vague directive, if followed thru will radically change the way the military services operate by putting all of the functions in space that many of services operate on their own, under one headquarters.
“I am hereby 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,” Trump said while at a meeting of the National Space Council.
“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,” Trump added, (Yes, he really did say separate but equal).
The President reportedly signed the order at 12:36 p.m. on June 18, 2018. So, does that mean we now have a Space Force? Not yet. The President can direct the Pentagon to go ahead with the planning for a new Space Force but only Congress can authorize a new branch of the military.
“Establishing a service branch requires congressional action.” House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio said.
While the President can authorize the Pentagon to conduct working or study groups to lay out the groundwork for a future military branch, only Congress has the power to establish a new branch of the military and to establish the positions of senior officials to lead a new branch.
Which was why Trump’s directive was so vague.
However, a statement from one DOD official read, “The Joint Staff will work closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, other DoD stakeholders, and the Congress to implement the President’s guidance.”
The Pentagon will work on the basics of the Space Force and would have to brief Congress and have plans as to if creating a Space Force is even feasible, what the Space Force would do, who is going to be in it, and most importantly, how much is this going to cost.
Support for another service in Congress is mixed but right now it is probably safe to say, there will not be enough support in Congress to carry the necessary votes.
Trump’s directive goes counter what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has stated publicly. In a letter Mattis wrote last year to Congress “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 vice an integrated one we’re constructing under our current approach.”
The existing service chiefs are likely to be all against this move, specifically the Air Force. The decision is political rather than pragmatic as the chiefs don’t want to compete with another service for personnel, and for budgets. It is all about protecting their empires within. Currently, the Air Force considers space part of its domain.
And they have approximately 36,000 troops assigned to 134 world-wide bases to their Space Command, headquartered at Peterson AFB in Colorado. Their budget for their unclassified projects is expected to top $44.3 billion dollars.
The Air Force has the most to lose by creating a new sixth military service and would be forced to compete for pieces of space domain that it already enjoys. What of the bases and personnel that the Air Force is already using under Space Command? Do these get turned over to the new service or will the Pentagon build new facilities and start from scratch?
Each of the branches has their own space-based initiatives, albeit to differing degrees and they’ll be reluctant to give them up. Among them are the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), Naval Network and Space Operations Command (NNSOC), Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Strategic Command (MARFORSTRAT). The U.S. Missile Defense Agency would also likely be tied into a new service arrangement.
In a sign that the Air Force could have seen this scenario arising, the Air Force Space Command was stripped of its role overseeing the service’s computer warfare efforts. Those personnel were transferred from Colorado Springs to Virginia and was seen as a move to allow the Air Force to focus more on their space warfare roles.
So, while they lost 72 airmen and civilians, they are expected to get an additional 150 personnel to boost their ability to plan and conduct warfare in orbit.
This current program that is under consideration and one that the Chinese and Russians are supposedly heavily invested in is the militarization of space, specifically the weaponization of satellites. It is believed that the Russians and Chinese are developing lasers which can knock out satellites in space which can throw our entire economy into a sudden stop and destroy our ability to spy on our adversaries.
It wouldn’t necessarily be a very expensive move in creating a new service per se. Most of the programs that are already existing could be just transferred from the service where it now resides to the new Space Force. It would then have to be reorganized under a new Chain of Command. That’s where it will get expensive. A new command requires the level of bureaucracy to the nth degree. This would require a new service secretary and a new member of the Joint Chiefs. Included in that would be a new headquarters and all the bells and whistles where staff personnel shuffle paper and “coordinate” but offer little to the overall mission.
A new service academy will probably not be needed, the new service can draw from the existing service academies, which would be a cost-saving measure.
But Congress may come back to the President and simply say that they won’t fund it and want to keep the command under the Secretary of the Air Force under the auspices of the Department of the Air Force.
And what, pray tell will they be called. OSF? (Outer Space Forces), one thing they won’t be called, at least officially are “Space Cadets.”
So while the internet is awash with futuristic Star Wars, Star Trek et .al, type of uniforms that the new Space Force may be wearing, we’ll take a break on that and just wait and see if the new command actually comes to fruition.
However, if they do opt for a Star Trek inspired duty uniform, a word of warning. Don’t be that obscure guy from the engineering section (red uniform shirt), who beams down to Rigel 7 for a scouting party….
Photo: Star Trek