White House Plans to Move Forward With Trump’s Space Force

Despite pushback from military leaders and needing approval from Congress, the White House plans to move forward with Space Force.

In a speech on Thursday, Vice President Pence announced that they’re moving forward with the establishment of the United States “Space Force.” He continued to explain steps that are being implemented to “create a new branch of our military that separate from an equal to 5 other branches.”Before you rummage through the closet to find your Star Wars rebel fighter pilot cosplay so you can march to your nearest Space Forces recruitment office, there are some significant hurdles to face before this new branch of the military can be implemented. First, it needs to be approved by Congress. Also, many military leaders, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, do not feel a new branch in the military is necessary, because these duties are already under the purview of existing programs. Then there is the ever-present problem of how we will pay for it.However, before getting into the details as to why the creation of a new U.S. Space Force is not inevitable, there are the more interesting questions of what threats lurk in space that warrant a Space Force and what would the Space Force do?Not surprisingly, the internet has speculated that Trump is aware of a malevolent alien force the government is preparing to take on. As exciting – and scary – as that would be, the truth is closer to home. The usual suspects, China and Russia, are the threats the president is looking to combat. Not that anyone is afraid they will attack us from space cruisers, but the fear is they may attack our precious satellites from the ground.Years before the president announced his Space Force idea, U.S military, and political leaders began debating the best way to defend satellites. The most public battle was Reagan’s struggle to fund his “Star Wars” space-based laser program. He never secured funding for the program, but the necessity to protect satellites has only grown as our reliance on the services they provide increases.“Every banking transaction requires a GPS signal for timing,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Bloomberg. “You lose the GPS signal and guess what you lose? You lose banking.”The thought of a hostile action taking out banking transactions inevitably strikes fear in the heart of the White House. Besides civilian uses, the military is also highly dependant on satellites. Real-time, advanced access to GPS, weather forecasting, communications, visuals and more is vital to modern warfare. And satellites, for the most part, are floating above the earth defenseless.“U.S. national security space systems are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from cyberattacks and jamming to direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles,” according to a recent report by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).The report goes on to explain the latest generation of communication satellites have a built-in defense against “jamming, spoofing, and other forms of electronic attack. But these satellites remain susceptible to kinetic attack, such as direct-ascent ASAT missiles or co-orbital weapons.”Russia has had a military based “space force” since 2015, and China’s space operations have always been a part of their military.Furthermore, Russia has been working on a satellite-killing missile, and China already has one. In 2007, China used a missile to destroy an old weather satellite orbiting 535 miles above the earth. Although it was a test, it has caused another space hazard to satellites in the form of debris. In fact, according to some experts, space junk may be an even more substantial threat than our adversaries.You may be surprised to know the U.S. Air Force already has a Space Command. Its headquarters are at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, just outside of Cheyenne Mountain, the underground base made famous in the movie War Games.General John W. “Jay” Raymond is the head of Air Force Space Command, and he says the biggest threat to the more than 1,400 satellites they track are the over 20,000 pieces of debris they also keep an eye on.“We see that congestion only growing,” Raymond told Bloomberg. “We take about 400,000 observations a day with our sensor network.”Air Force Space Command does more than observe space. Currently, it is their job to keep space safe.“Our goal is not to have conflict in space,” said Raymond. “We want to deter that conflict from happening,” but “space is not a benign domain. It’s a war-fighting domain, and we need to treat it as such.”So if there is already a Space Command working on the problem, why do we need a sixth branch of the military? Many are wondering that same thing. Politicians who back Trump’s plan argue that the U.S. Air Force has historically not allocated enough of their budget to space threats.Mattis argues the issue is a matter of military budget constraints, especially when he is mandated to cut spending. He also explains that a new branch would add unnecessary levels of bureaucracy and stall ongoing projects.“I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions,” Mattis wrote regarding the “Space Corps” in a letter to Senator John McCain, the Chair of the Committee on Armed Services.While not backing the White House’s Space Force, Mattis told reporters earlier this week military leadership is “in complete alignment with the president’s concern about protecting our assets in space to contribute to our security to our economy, and we’re going to have to address it as other countries show a capability to attack those assets.”Besides pushback from the military, there is the issue of the fact Congress will need to approve the new Space Force and funds allocated to it. A fact Trump has not acknowledged. Thursday morning Pence did, claiming the White House has been reaching out to lawmakers for bipartisan support.Two House of Representative members, Alabama Republican Mike Rogers and Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper, have already pledged support. Rogers led a failed effort to create a “Space Corps” in 2017.Regardless of what Congress wants, the White House is not waiting to find out. They seek to create the U.S. Space Command by the end of the year. A four-star general will run it.“It’s not enough to have an American presence in space,” says Pence. “We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”