Space Force: Is it needed?
Some people are mocking President Trump’s idea of creating a new military branch called the Space Force, said Bloomberg.com in an editorial, but it’s “no joke.” Our military and our economy are increasingly reliant on orbiting satellites for GPS navigation, communications, weather forecasting, and other vital functions, and “satellites are vulnerable to attack.” China and Russia, in fact, are investing in anti-satellite weapons that could, in effect, blind the country during a military confrontation. An attack on these satellites would be catastrophic, said Jonathon Trugman in the New York Post. From GPS to cellphones, everyday life is heavily dependent on the more than “$1 trillion in assets flying above our heads.” The Air Force currently has most of the responsibility for what’s in orbit, but many agencies are involved, with no real focus on a possible space war. Though the name “Space Force” sounds “hokey to the cynics,” the reality is that “our government needs a force to protect our future.”
Defending our satellites is a good idea, said Fred Kaplan in Slate.com, but creating an entirely new branch of the military to do the job is not. Military satellites serve the various branches of the armed forces, and placing command of these “vital assets” in a separate bureaucracy that “competes with them for resources” would be both expensive and inefficient. That’s why Secretary of Defense James Mattis already told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he opposes “the creation of a new military service” at a time he’s trying to integrate the war-fighting functions of the existing branches. Rather than turning near-Earth orbit into “a war-fighting domain,” said Peter Wismer in The Washington Post, Trump should be seeking to prevent that catastrophe. China and Russia have both proposed an international treaty “to ban the placement of weapons in space entirely”—an offer the U.S. has repeatedly turned down.
If the U.S. does take “a more muscular posture in the cosmos,” said Ramin Skibba in Politico.com, China and Russia are sure to follow suit. That would set off an arms race in which several countries place offensive weapons in orbit that could destroy or jam other countries’ satellites. When weaponizing space is no longer taboo, we could be headed for a “Cuban missile crisis 300 miles above the ground.” Trump might think it makes us safer to “dominate” space with a Space Force, but beware of unintended consequences.