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NASA Administrator: We Need a Space Force to Save Energy Grid From 'Existential Threat'

Is another bureaucracy really going to solve the problem?

Eugen Dobric/Dreamstime.comEugen Dobric/Dreamstime.comNASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine thinks the U.S. needs a Space Force to protect the nation's energy grid from the "existential threat" posed by our adversaries. But while the threat may be real, that doesn't mean a whole new branch of the military is the solution.

In a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, Bridenstine notes that the energy grid and Wall Street are both heavily dependent on Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. "Every banking transaction requires a timing signal from GPS," he tells the Examiner. "In other words, if there is no GPS, there is no banking in the United States. Everything shuts down." This, he adds, is "an existential threat."

Who might be capable of such a disruption? The administration points to Russia and China. Laying out the White House's plans for a Space Force earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence cited the security threats posed by both countries' space capabilities.

"We are dependent as a nation...on space to the point where our potential adversaries have called it the 'American Achilles heel,'" Bridenstine tells the Examiner.

But while the electric grid and Wall Street may be vulnerable to a space-based attack, creating an entirely new branch of the military isn't the right response. For one thing, the Pentagon already puts considerable resources into space operations. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have 159 military satellites in orbit. China and Russia have just 75 and 35, respectively.

Indeed, the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command. And as Reason's Christian Britschgi recently noted, the Air Force currently spends about $8.5 billion a year on its space operations.

That's not all. Without the Space Force, the Pentagon wastes about $125 billion a year on administrative inefficiencies. Adding to the alphabet soup of space agencies will probably just make that worse.

And though it's important to protect America's assets in space, adding another military branch will be an invitation to military creep. As Britschgi wrote:

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.

American taxpayers are already on the hook for a military that costs $700 billion a year. Let's try lowering that figure instead of adding to it.

Photo Credit: Eugen Dobric/Dreamstime.com

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    SPACE FORCE, F*** YEAH!

  • Cy||

    It really could be a decent ACDC song.

  • Fancylad||

    Back in space
    No more airbase
    It's been too long since we started the race
    My cup of tea's
    No gravity
    That kept me standing about
    I've been hanging in the sky
    'Cause it's gettin' me high
    Riding rockets 'round the world I fly
    I'm in of course
    the Space Force
    Abusin' satellites and running wild

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    According to the Union of Concerned Scientists...

    Lame. Try naming yourselves the Space League of Super Scientists and maybe I'll listen.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Isn't the Union of Concerned Scientists vehemently against nuclear power?

    I'm not listening to them no matter what they call themselves.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    If so, they remove the term 'scientists' from their name.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    *should remove...

  • NoVaNick||

    One thing I have learned about political orgs is that there name usually reflects the exact opposite of their positions. Hence, the Union of Concerned Scientists should be the Union of Unconcerned Anti-Scientists.

  • Fancylad||

    Union of Concerned Scientists
    Is gender studies a scientific discipline?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Indeed, the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command.

    AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND, HECK YES!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    *VAN HALEN GUITAR SOLOOOOOOO*

  • Dillinger||

    Eruption.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Without the Space Force, the Pentagon wastes about $125 billion a year on administrative inefficiencies. Adding to the alphabet soup of space agencies will probably just make that worse.

    You have to spend space credits to make space credits.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    I'll wager 100 quatloos they acquired no space credits with that investment.

  • ||

    Unless the Ferengi are involved I refuse to believe there's latinum to be had.

  • Restoras||

    Dork

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    American taxpayers are already on the hook for a military that costs $700 billion a year. Let's try lowering that figure instead of adding to it.

    With Space Force, the sky is literally not the limit! Do you have any idea how much quantitative easing can take place in zero gravity? Let's find out!

  • Bee Tagger||

    Now we can present our plans to balance the budget to the protomolecule and it can defy physics to make them work.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Your responses in this thread make me think you spend all your time lately writing jokes about space force, waiting for an appropriate thread.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    In space, no one can hear you space laugh at the space hilarity.

  • Rockabilly||

    Is another bureaucracy really going to solve the problem?

    Of course it will.

    That's the reason for the Kennedy School of Big Government; to churn out pointy head bureaucrats to solve these problems.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    A bureaucrat thinks we need more bureaucrats? What are the odds of *that* happening?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    There's a bureaucrat over in the Office of Pointless Statistics and Stuff working on that very question.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    The Office of Senseless Surveys?

  • Shirley Knott||

    But they're held up by unfilled staffing requests.
    Needz mor bureaucrats!
    pfeh

  • IceTrey||

    Or we could just, I don't know, be friendly so no one wants to destroy us?

  • Dillinger||

    that's when they get you.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Just ask the 12 Colonies.

  • Dillinger||

    so say we all.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well looks like Trump has put out the word to his department heads. Say great things about Trump's Space Force, or Trump will tweet mean things at you.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Figures a leftie such as yourself would be against the creation of a massive new bureaucratic office.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I know, right?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Hold up, are y'all saying Jeff isn't really a libtard proggiehead and folks just call him that so they feel comfortable acting like children toward him? I'm fucking astonished grown people would do such a thing.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you disagree with any policy favored by Trump then not only do you disagree with every policy, but you voted for Hillary as well. Everyone knows this.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh, and you're an anarchist too. A Big Government Anarchist.

  • Fancylad||

    Sarcasm or no, that's largely true.

  • ||

    It's hilarious that chemjeff's hour and minute hand just happened to coincide with something close to real world time just this once and everyone rushes to defend his time keeping abilities. Nevermind that he's been a pro-state proggie surpassed only by the likes of Tony for years, he actually told correct time for once!

  • Hamster of Doom||

    If you've already decided I'm wrong, then pretty much everything I say from here is going to be yet more proof of how wrong I am (just as you suspected!).

    Kind of how once we've decided Jeff is a pro-state liberal, our eyes skip over his arguments against the expansion of the state and stop when we see what kinda looks like what we were expecting.

    We'll see pretty much what we decide to. Humans are really not that good at observation, and we're possibly worse at communication. It's a noisy combination.

    Can't pour more beer into a full mug. I'm not necessarily saying you're wrong, MC - but I'm definitely asking whether you'd know it if you were.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    he's been a pro-state proggie surpassed only by the likes of Tony for years

    citation needed

  • Agammamon||

    Ok, I think this dude is confusing 'uses' with 'requires'.

    Banking transactions *may* use the GPS clock as an easily accessible timer to keep track of when transactions occur - that's not a *necessity* though.

    And even if super-precise clocks were needed, they're available from places other than GPS.

  • Agammamon||

    And what is the space force going to do against a mass ASAT launch from the surface?

    There is nothing - outside of a limited set of *manned offensive* missions (most of which could still be done through tele-operation) - for a space force to do.

  • sarcasmic||

    Dude, it's a SPACE FORCE! They'll be like flying around in space ships and shooting down the bad guys! It'll be like totally rad and stuff!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Pew pew

  • Cy||

    I truly believe this is how Trump proposed the agency to his cabinet.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    And what is the space force going to do against a mass ASAT launch from the surface?

    Launch Vipers from wicked cool launch tubes to intercept?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I've been waiting for Macross to be real for decades. Don't deny me now.

  • Agammamon||

    Veritech?

    Nevermind what I said before - I'm in.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Does that mean I'll at least get to bang hot Cylon chicks?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Viper Mark I...so here's your hot Cylon chick

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Well, that's disappointing. I'm not even sure there's a hole to stick it in.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    You'll need to wait several generations for that

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Kind of makes you wonder how any banking ever got done before GPS.

  • sarcasmic||

    "In other words, if there is no _________, there is no ________ in the United States. Everything shuts down."

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Obamacare
    Health Care

    or something.

  • Entelechy||

    "Is another bureaucracy really going to solve the problem?"
    asks Seyton , before unveiling a whole new intersectional side of the Area 51 turf wars:

    " For one thing, the Petnagon already puts considerable resources into space operations."

    It's a brilliant concept, as the minimal life support requirements small dogs, and tropical fish would enable far longer missions in orbit.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    What we really need is to build a sphere, and get the Martians to pay for it.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    HAHAHAHA. Not only did Britschgi get that number wrong, but Reason printed it TWICE:

    That's not all. Without the Space Force, the Pentagon wastes about $125 billion a year on administrative inefficiencies.

    From the actual link which neither reason "journalist" could bother to read:

    The report, issued in January 2015, identified "a clear path" for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years.

    One year is the same as five, right?

  • Shirley Knott||

    GPS pfui. Small thinking.
    On the rough order of 6 (six) properly situated EMPs and you can pretty much kiss modern civilization goodbye.
    Sure, some hardened military sites may be unaffected, but fat lot of good they're going to do.

  • ||

    On the rough order of 6 (six) properly situated EMPs and you can pretty much kiss modern civilization goodbye.
    Sure, some hardened military sites may be unaffected, but fat lot of good they're going to do.

    As a nefarious organization looking to upend Western Civilization, if you haven't committed to deploying the rods from God, have you really committed to anything?

  • Horny Lizard||

    It's just a bs way to give more money to the military.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The military does waste a bunch of money but some redundancy of command and control systems is not a waste. It actually makes the military more survivable. If one command and control goes down due to attack, the military can quickly shift to another system.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Additionally cutting costs is not really allowed - say by not armoring humvees. The point is a lot of redundant systems are also to protect lives which the US gavernment puts in harm's way.

  • Agammamon||

    All the troops sent on patrol in unarmored HMMWV's, because that's all there was, in Iraq and Afghanistan would beg to differ

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    You can have redundancy without separate forces

  • Agammamon||

    That's not what is going on here. The Navy isn't suddenly going to start running the Air Force if their high command gets blown up. Individual services senior commands are not really operational commands, they're training and administrative commands.

    The big commands are the joint ones - theater level commands that integrate all the services together at that level. And if you blow that up you still have to rebuild that joint command - they're each unique.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Asinine!

    The current services should be consolidated into one to reduce the number of support agencies and mission duplication.

    EXACTLY the wrong direction!

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    I'd be fine with abolishing the air force, cutting all of their flag ranks, rolling everything but their space activities back into the army, and commissioning a new space force.

    No one will weep at the loss of their golf courses.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Why not everything?

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Yep, whenever I'm examining a critical system, and find a single, catastrophic point of failure, my first instinct is to double down on it.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    That, and try to get the government more involved.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    I'll force your space!

  • Cy||

    How else are we going to fight off the intergalactic highway bureaucrats when they show up? We just need to make sure they're well armed with fine towels.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Meh...they're terrible shots

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Don't forget to bring a towel!
    ...
    You wanna get high?

  • General_Tso||

    Great poets though

  • Happy Chandler||

    Is Space Force just going to be a bunch of hair dressers and telephone sanitizers?

    PS: If you google "telephone sanitizers" to remember what else was on board, you find that you can actually buy telephone sanitizers.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Welp, since we regularly get the opposite of whatever politicians say an agency or law will do, I expect this to point an Illudium Q36 Space Modulator at Americans within a decade.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I expect this to point an Illudium Q36 Space Modulator at Americans within a decade.

    And then, this being a government project, the Q36 Space Modulator won't work.

    "Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth shattering kaboom?"

  • Cy||

    Was "The Core" really that bad of a movie? Be honest....

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Stanley Tucci was super obnoxious and then they killed him. So it was not without joy entirely.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Without gps Wall Street will lose an important tool for conducting highly leveraged transactions as a mechanism for fleecing us. Oh no.

    I am not aware of any "real world" transactions that are Timed that precisely.

  • NoVaNick||

    Actually, electronic trades can occur in a period of nano or micro seconds, limited only by the processing speed of the trading operating systems and networks.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Our democracy is under assault! We must conquer the vast reaches of space to secure SATCOM from the red Russian menace and their assault on our democracy.

    Information warfare!

    Sleeper cells!

  • NoVaNick||

    Like DHS and ICE, Space Force seems like another unnecessary boondoggle. But hey, I bet it will create thousands of gov't jobs.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    So it will have bipartisan support.

  • Sigivald||

    But while the electric grid and Wall Street may be vulnerable to a space-based attack, creating an entirely new branch of the military isn't the right response. For one thing, the Pentagon already puts considerable resources into space operations. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have 159 military satellites in orbit. China and Russia have just 75 and 35, respectively.

    Indeed, the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command. And as Reason's Christian Britschgi recently noted, the Air Force currently spends about $8.5 billion a year on its space operations.

    While I'm not sold on USSF being The Right Solution, this complaint completely misses the point.

    It's like complaining about making the Air Force back in 1947, because "the Army Air Corps and Navy both already do stuff with airplanes, so why would we need a dedicated Air Power service?!?!".

    Or complaining about the creation of DHS as an umbrella agency re-org*.

    (* There are lots of valid complaints about the DHS, or more relevantly, things under its umbrella, like the very existence of the TSA, or the way ICE can be abusive, etc., etc.

    But a TSA without DHS, under, say, Transportation or Justice or Interior, would still be the TSA, is the thing.

    Let's not confuse reorgs and unified "everything for space stuff under one roof with people concentrating on space stuff" with the parallel issue of "more or less military spending".)

  • Happy Chandler||

    You're confusing the current state of affairs with a better state of affairs.
    Having a separate air force increases turf battles and complicates integrated fighting. Why shouldn't the army and navy provide their own air support? Why should they have a separate chain of command who is vested in increasing air power whether it's the best use of funds? Why have a separate set of demands on the JSF?

  • Restoras||

    So, will Space Force look like the stuff from UFO or Space 1999? Personally I prefer chicks with purple hair and fishnet tops.

  • General_Tso||

    Lt Ellis for the win!

  • JeremyR||

    By this logic the Air Force should be part of the Army. And hell, the Army should be part of the Navy, just call them Marines.

    But the reality is it's a completely different frontier and needs a specialized force. And if there is ever a major war, space will be the key battlefield. Whoever controls it, controls the ground and air.

  • DrZ||

    A far larger threat is foreign nationals smuggling plastic straws into the U.S. Is anyone guarding against that?

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Well, look at the remarkable job they've done in combating AGW.

  • Brian||

    I interpret "the press" as "only people like me." That way, I get to do whatever I want while I figure out what to do with you

    That's what I call "freedom."

    Anyway, these media people better tread carefully or it won't be long until someone's saying "what does 'freedom of the press' really mean?

    Because the next thing you know, it will mean whatever the government says it means, because democracy.

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