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Trump Administration Presses Ahead With Space Force His Own Defense Advisers Say Is a Terrible Idea

A new military service focused on space would be a burden on both taxpayers and the private space industry.

EDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS/NewscomEDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS/NewscomThe Trump Administration is throwing its full faith and credit behind the idea of creating an honest-to-God, no-holds-barred Space Force. Seriously.

On Thursday morning Vice President Mike Pence addressed a crowd of senior military officials at the Pentagon where he called for creating a Space Force as a sixth co-equal branch of the military by 2020.

"It's not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space," said Pence, declaring that a new Space Force would be able to respond to growing security threats presented by Russia and China's own space capabilities, and "carry the cause of liberty and peace into the next great American frontier."

According to a plan outlined by Pence, this would happen in stages. First, the administration would create a new Space Command—similar to the military's current Cyber or Special Operations Command—by the end of the year. This would be followed by the training of "elite war fighters specializing in the domain of space", the creation of a new assistant secretary of defense position to oversee those elite space warriors, and a new Space Development Agency which would purchase new satellites and space-related equipment without the current "duplicative bureaucracy and red tape."

Pending authorization from Congress, these would all be folded into a full-fledge Space Force within two years.

Should Trump proceed with this plan of action he would be creating the first new military branch since the Air Force was spun off from the Army in 1947. He would also be acting against the advice of his own defense chiefs who've explicitly and publicly criticized the idea of a Space Force as unnecessary, inefficient, and ultimately counterproductive to the military's space operations.

When plans for a mere Space Corps subordinate to the Air Force were being floated as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Defense Secretary James Mattis came out strongly and publicly against the idea.

"At a time when we are trying to integrate the [Defense] 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," said Mattis in a July 2017 letter to Rep. Mike Turner (R–Ohio).

Much the same was said by Trump's Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

"This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money," said Wilson of the same proposal in June 2017. "I don't need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff."

As Trump's enthusiasm for a Space Force has grown, however, both Mattis and Wilson have muted or retracted their opposition. Yet their criticisms still stand.

It is not like the U.S. military has no space operations currently. The U.S. already has the largest constellation of military satellites in the world—159 according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, compared to 75 for Russian and 35 for China. The Air Force, the service which handles most of the military's current space operations, spends some $8.5 billion a year on space-related endeavors, and plans to invest another $44.3 billion in space systems over the next five years.

That's a staggering amount of money, and it would only grow with the creation of a new Space Force. Given that the Defense Department already wastes $125 billion on administrative inefficiencies a year—inefficiencies that folks like Mattis and Wilson warn will only be exacerbated with the addition of a new military branch—there is a high chance that taxpayers would get little return on the creation of a separate Space Force.

This says nothing of the mission creep that would inevitably follow. Without a single branch dedicated to militarizing space, the current branches have to make trade offs between how much they prioritize space over other land, sea, and air operations.

That's ultimately a good thing, as it constrains the time and energy the government can put toward expanding the reach of an already overpowered, oversized military. A new Space Force, by contrast, would have every incentive to hype any potential space-related threats in the pursuit of more funding, more influence, and more power.

Not only would that impose a burden on taxpayers—who already shell out some $700 billion a year for the largest military on the planet—it could also crowd out investment in the peaceful, private exploration of space.

A huge new military bureaucracy dedicated to space would inevitably have to draw from the same talent pools that our burgeoning private space industry does. Every engineer, scientist, or pilot recruited into the Space Force means one fewer civilian figuring out how to send tourists to low earth orbit, to create research bases on Mars, or to set up strip mines on the moon.

That would be a real loss for those who believe the U.S. is already too involved in terrestrial conflicts, and who have looked forward to the freedom-enhancing potential of private space exploration.

Photo Credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    SPACE FORCE EFF YEAH

  • ||

    SPACE FORCE: NO HOLDS BARRED sounds like it should have it's own story arc.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space...

    Otherwise you're going to have aliens from sh*thole planets space waltzing right in and stealing our space welfare.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's not a problem. He's going to build a big, bee-you-tiful wall around the asteroid belt and make Europa pay for it.

  • Don't look at me.||

    It will be beautiful. The biggest, the best!

  • ||

    Europa

    Phbbt. Everybody knows Mercury is the Mexico of our solar system.

  • ||

    Also, (obligatory) sh*thole planet = Uranus

  • Dillinger||

    >>>"It's not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,"

    the laughter of the alien zookeepers of this planet is highly audible.

  • Alcibiades||

    Will the uniforms be cool?

  • Don't look at me.||

    Lots of gold trim I bet.

  • Hugh Akston||

    And space power ties unfettered by gravity. 30—no 40 feet long.

  • Tony||

    Will depend on the season.

  • Restoras||

    Do you want to know more?

  • ||

    +1 dead bug

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    In fairness, when it comes to setting up mines, creating bases, and sending people to low earth orbit, the US military does have a much better track record than the private sector.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's a true testament to what you can do with infinite money wrenched by force out of peoples' hands.

  • Tony||

    Someone finally discovers why and how government is useful.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""money wrenched by force out of peoples' hands.""

    Is that your definition of government being useful?

    You know who else got money by wrenching it by force from people?

  • Tony||

    Literally every society in the history of the world since the invention of money and society.

  • Alcibiades||

    Bet there's an Amazon Prime shipping warehouse on the moon before the Chinese get there.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Alas, the Chicoms got nothing on the bottlenecking capabilities of the Interstellar Commerce Commission.

  • Cathy L||

    What a bunch of cucks. Imagine the level of thanatotic drive required to be really upset that your nation is creating a space force. "Please defeat us, supplant us, we don't deserve the future," murmurs the 21st-century Western ruling class.

  • Oli||

    You do realize who will be paying for it? (Hint: it's not Mexico)

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "elite war fighters specializing in the domain of space"

    They're going to be very tough hombres. They'll be packing state-of-the-art firepower. There'll be nothing they can't handle! You won't even believe it. Believe me.

  • Tony||

    I never realized how gay Mike Pence actually is until today. What effort he's not using to avert his eyes from supple male physiques he's using to make sure he doesn't carelessly slip one sibilant 's' in.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "elite war fighters specializing in the domain of space"

    Stormtroopers are not "elite war fighters." They can't hit the broadside of a barn.

  • Echospinner||

    Actually we don't even need a separate Air Force. It could just be folded into the army as it was originally. Air power is a much more integrated entity in modern combat. Space is no different. This will just create more waste and confusion.

    The starship Enterprise was a navy ship which makes perfect sense.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I guarantee if they decide to call it "Star Fleet," half the people complaining it will suddenly go "WTF I love the Space Force now."

  • Echospinner||

    See. They are already missing a great opportunity.

    Who could be against Star Fleet?

  • ||

    The Reverend. He's not a big fan of Clingons.

  • Rockabilly||

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Space is the place man

    Indeed, Sun Ra is awesome:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuGAxii7xac

  • loveconstitution1789||

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