Space

Pentagon Moves Forward With Space Force, Though Congress Hasn't Approved It Yet

The Pentagon can't create an entirely new branch of the military on its own. But it's moving forward where it can.

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Ivan Cholakov/Dreamstime.com

Congress has yet to approve President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force, but that hasn't kept the Defense Department from moving forward as far as it can with the idea.

Defense One reports:

In coming months, Defense Department leaders plan to stand up three of the four components of the new Space Force: a new combatant command for space, a new joint agency to buy satellites for the military, and a new warfighting community that draws space operators from all service branches. These sweeping changes—on par with the past decade's establishment of cyber forces—are the part the Pentagon can do without lawmakers' approval.

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Pentagon to come up with a plan for how the Space Force would work. Defense One has obtained a 14-page draft of the plan that lawmakers will receive tomorrow. It says the new branch will "protect our economy through deterrence of malicious activities, ensure our space systems meet national security requirements and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces across the spectrum of conflict."

By the end of 2018, the Pentagon plans to have launched a U.S. Space Command to "oversee space forces from across the military," Defense One says. Around the beginning of 2019, military officials hope to send to Congress a "legislative proposal for the authorities necessary to fully establish the Space Force," according to the draft report.

It sounds like the Pentagon shares Trump's enthusiasm for the Space Force. But it's not a good idea, for several reasons. According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited a 2016 study from the Government Accountability Office, there are already "60 distinct entities that deal with assets in space." And the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command, which employs more than 36,000 people. Is there really a need to make the Space Command larger, or to add to the alphabet soup of space agencies?

Furthermore, as I explained earlier this month:

The U.N. Outer Space Treaty puts some limits on the militarization of space: It bans the use of weapons of mass destruction outside the Earth's atmosphere, and it prohibits the installation of military bases on asteroids or the moon. But as the University of Kent's Gbenga Oduntan writes, the treaty does not preclude member countries from deploying other kinds of weapons in space. If the Space Force triggers an extraterrestrial arms race, we could see "a total disruption of the agreed law that outer space is the common heritage of all humankind."

If the Pentagon is rushing forward with the idea, it'll fall to Congress to apply the brakes and think harder about the negative ramifications.

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  1. The fact that a Space Force is even being discussed is so breathtakingly stupid

    1. It feels a bit cart-before-the-horse. Why stop there, why not also make a Space Police. Sure, we haven’t got a moon colony, jurisdiction, or anything for them to do, but never mind that now.

      1. Why not just deport felons to the moon.

        1. Probably because corrections industry doesn’t pay enough to make the commute worthwhile, and we can’t decimate local, home-grown jobs. Once we’ve got that moon colony, though, I bet that idea will be a winner at the polls.

          1. I look forward to the day when Heinlein’s book “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” will start coming true instead of having Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” coming true.

        2. If we turn the Moon into a penal colony like Australia used to be, sooner or later, some professor is going to fight for independence for the Moon by threatening to send shipments of grain to Earth full force as projectile missiles that can cause some serious damage. Oh, and then there’s the risk of some Moon citizens traveling to Mars where they give birth to a son who learns Marian values from the natives. That guy might come back to Earth to challenge the government and establish a church where everyone groks each other.

          1. Go grok yourself.

    2. Not when you understand that it is a work around to the broken culture and bureaucracy of the air force. Right now the air force runs everything space and the air force is a culture that is run by and rewards fighter jocks. This is to create a culture different from that to handle space.

      1. Yeah I don’t see this as stupid at all. I also don’t see how any of the author’s arguments actually go against a space force.

        “And the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command, which employs more than 36,000 people. Is there really a need to make the Space Command larger, or to add to the alphabet soup of space agencies?”

        I would assume that this would become part of the Space Force. Along with the units peppered around the other branches.

        Corporations do this all the time. At my company, we had been claiming to be mobile-first for years, and yet our mobile offerings were terrible. The new CEO looked at our mobile offerings and found that at a company with thousands of engineers, we only had a couple dozen mobile engineers. And so the CEO created a mobile business unit, and its sole job was to create mobile experiences. No longer did leaders prioritize their products vs mobile, and find other stuff more important. The BU’s priority was mobile and so it built mobile products.

        This method isn’t always the right tactic, but it isn’t automatically stupid.

        1. I somewhat agree, while I certainly don’t see this as a streamlining initiative (keeping in mind he’s not the libertarian I would’ve chosen nor even a libertarian), it *does* seem like something a/the/our government should be doing. If SpaceX is going to go anywhere and/or NASA is going to mine asteroids or whatever, there is, or will be, a bit of a space race as to who can claim and/or defend those properties. At the very least, a cold war in space sounds heaps better and more legitimate than a hot war in Syria.

          Could I conceive of Neil DeGrasse-Tyson or Michio Kaku or whomever proposing an international court of space trade and settlement? Hell yes. Do I think that, in the sense of their cache with the future, space, and technology they would be taken seriously? Hell yes. Would such a court require some manner of monitoring and offensive capabilities? Hell yes. Would such a court, being international, not get completely flummoxed by Chinese government-owned and Russian Oligarch interests? Damn straight. Do I think the high-browed futurists would give one second’s thought to the latter two issues? Nope. Do I think Trump’s methods kinda haphazardly address them in an ‘America First’ fashion? Yup.

          1. Would such a court, being international, not get completely flummoxed by Chinese government-owned and Russian Oligarch interests? Damn straight.

          2. That’s a hell of a rationalization you got there, pal.

          3. In the future, great powers will duel in space instead of having proxy wars in the Middle East. Eventually, NASA will pug the earthbound controllers for our military spaceships to a gaming consul in times of war and pocket the savings to fund science conferences at the foot of telescopes in the South Pacific.

      2. Perhaps we could start with you explaining why there should even be a “Space Force” in the first place.

        1. It is inevitable military machines will continue to be built for space at an ever increasing rate. Whether this increases efficencies is anyone’s guess. My guess right now, probably not. They would need to eat a few agencies like NRO and large parts of the Air Force for this to make sense and it is anyone’s guess if they will:

      3. I’m willing to hear out this argument if you got an article explaining how the Space Force is meant to streamline bureaucracy

        1. How many pages were the plans for the formation of the other branches? 14-pages sounds pretty streamlined to me.

      4. Like how the DHS created a culture to better handle counter-terrorism and information-sharing between Federal law-enforcement agencies?

        1. The AF doesn’t ‘run everything space’. NRO and NSA.

        2. ‘everything space’ is basically ‘surveillance’. Nobody needs space-based weapons because tossing a satellite killer up 300 miles is all you need to do and you can do that from the ground, no problem. We’ve been able to do that with aircraft launched weapons since the 1980’s.

        2. The AF has been long been a hodgepodge of ill-fitting missions – from theater transport to *land-based* nuclear missiles to cyberwarfare to space warfare -and the fighter jocks are already on the way out. And they know it. A generation, tops, and a fighter jock will be a young warrant officer desperately trying to reign in his expanding gut while sitting in an air conditioned room managing a team of semi-autonomous drones doing combat operations on the other side of the world from him. In another generation the AF will transform – gradually and organically – into the Space Force anyway. Its what they do to maintain their relevance as an independent service.

        1. All this does is open up opportunities for graft, corruption, and waste as every power-hungry prick tries to get a slice of the new pie. And to what end? Instead of the other services being able to explore their own spacewarfare needs, we’ll force them into a one-size-fits-all plan that is not service-centric but designed to serve the needs of the senior officers of the Space Force. We already see this conflict writ small with the controversy over replacing the A-10 with the F-35, with the fact that the USMC fought DAMN hard to get their own, organic, fixed-wing capabilities, with the dominance of the carrier Navy – all these things came into existence to fill gaps left in what the USAF could or would do.

        2. I’m not sure your predictions of fighter jocks gone in a generation will play out. The carrier Navy shows no signs of changing course imho despite continuing to plan to fight wars like it is WWII.

          1. The Navy’s already been been prepping for the obsolecence of the carrier – but the carrier air wing will be around for a long time. Just with drones.

            Semi-autonomous drone swarms (coupled with submerged operation) leaves the Navy with trying to figure out what they’re going to do when *the whole surface fleet* becomes obsolete. Its a much bigger step, with more money at stake just for that than the whole Air Force’s budget. Its no wonder that they’ve barely taken baby steps. Its a daunting task to design a Navy for the latter half of the 21st century when you don’t have the slightest idea what you’re capabilities might be, let alone what form the enemy will take.

            Not to say that Big Navy’s not dawdling anyway, just they have a larger problem – and don’t have a culture of needing to scramble to stay relevant like the AF has had.

      5. The air force hates the A-10 warthog which the most effective and survivable ground attack bomber in a long time or ever.

        Part of the reason the us navy gives ground attack mostly to marine pilots to make sure their ground troops are supported by pilots who want to do that job.

    3. “… there are already “60 distinct entities that deal with assets in space.”

      Bringing them all under 1 command and eliminating some overlap doesn’t seem inherently stupid to me.

      1. We did that with the DHS. Does it seem kind of stupid now? There’s ‘this should work on paper’ and then there’s ‘we’ve already done this several times elsewhere and its been a disaster nearly every time’. What would be different in this case?

  2. SPACE FORCE *guitar solo*

  3. It sounds like the Pentagon shares Trump’s enthusiasm for the Space Force.

    It also sounds like the Pentagon has too much money to waste on crap like this.

    1. What about the space Russians?

    1. Comin along to save the motherfuckin day yeah!

    2. #IFLS

  4. a new warfighting community that draws space operators from all service branches

    I so hope that videos of soldiers doing practice drills with AR-15s in zero-g get posted on YouTube.

  5. And the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command, which employs more than 36,000 people

    But have they got silver lam? jumpsuit uniforms and laser blasters? How the hell you gonna be a starship trooper or a space marine if you don’t have cool new toys?

  6. How much you wanna bet that Trump watched a rerun of Armageddon one night and concluded “whoa, what if we’re not so lucky next time? Quick! We need a Space Force to stop the asteroids from killing us all!”

    1. Don’t be silly, Trump only watches FOX News. My guess is he talked to Elon Musk and Elon’s got a neat idea for a pulsed laser lightspeed drive he just needs a few billion to develop.

      1. It’s pretty sad that I don’t see this scenario as being outside the realm of possibility.

    2. That wouldn’t surprise me. But it’s also possible he read Krugman’s piece about how it would grow the economy if we prepare to fend off an extraterrestrial invasion and he concluded, “Krugman’s right! We need a Space Force to fight off aliens — the gray ones and the green ones, in this case!”

      He followed this up by deciding that “Those other solar systems: they are not sending us their best. They’re sending us all these spice dealers, cow-mutilators and anal-probers, and there may be some good aliens too.”

      1. Build a DYSON! It’s our only hope!

        1. What good would a vacuum do in a vacuum?

          1. We are a sovereign solar system! The Klingons have no right to take Mar’s citizens jobs and suck on the collective’s welfare! Build the the DYSON!

            1. Again, what good is a vacuum in a vacuum?

              http://www.dyson.com/en.html

              1. My apologies, I thought you were kidding. Look up a “Dyson Sphere.”

                1. I know about Dyson spheres, I was making a joke.

  7. the new branch will “protect our economy through deterrence of malicious activities”

    “Protect our *economy*”? WTF?

    1. Without Bruce Willis leading the Space Force to defeat the Asteroid Menace, the economy will go into the shitter!

  8. If anything, the services should be consolidated, eliminating mission overlap and consolidating the support structure into one inefficient mess rather than 3 inefficient messes.

  9. The Space Force should be all robots.

  10. People gave Reagan shit about SDI but lasers and ABMs are cutting edge military technology.

  11. In a sane world, the space force would be the focus of the military. For one, if you control space, you control the ground. Beyond that, the only real chance of a doomsday event ever happening is an asteroid. Not peak oil, not global cooling, not overpopulation, not global warming. The chance might be very small, but it will happen eventually.

  12. The U.N. Outer Space Treaty puts some limits on the militarization of space: It bans the use of weapons of mass destruction outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and it prohibits the installation of military bases on asteroids or the moon. But as the University of Kent’s Gbenga Oduntan writes, the treaty does not preclude member countries from deploying other kinds of weapons in space. If the Space Force triggers an extraterrestrial arms race, we could see “a total disruption of the agreed law that outer space is the common heritage of all humankind.”

    Is this a bad time to bring up the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty?

    1. Is this a bad time to bring up the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty?

      Have you ever noticed how fears of nuclear disaster have effectively neutered the development and advancement of nuclear power at all levels? I wonder if the same thing happens when there’s an enormous financial and logistical outlay just to get into space and no guarantee of any sort of property rights one way or the other once you get there? In any event it would obviously be better to leave this sort of conjecture to experts like MATT DAMON! than ordinary people like Trump, The Pentagon, or Congress.

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