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Should we really launch a US Space Force?

Should we really launch a US Space Force?

“This development could enhance US technological leadership and address vulnerabilities in surveillance, mission deployment, cyber, and AI.”

President Donald Trump has been holding a series of rallies across the nation, which are designed to promote the candidacy of supporters and to elect more Republicans so he can get more of his agenda items through Congress.

One intriguing aspect of those rallies is the obvious support for the US Space Force that is evident in the crowds.

There are many powerful arguments in favor of supporting the creation of this 6th branch of the military. One of them is that space-related capabilities are now spread throughout several other branches, and the consolidation would increase their readiness and effectiveness.

Doug Loverro, a former DoD Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, noted that fighting in space is different than fighting anywhere else, in the same way that the Navy prepares for unique combat at sea. “We lack that focus for space, one of our five main warfighting domains,” he said.

Loverro joked that people have been blaming him for Trump’s endorsement of a new service. “I’m ready to rip the band aid off,” he said. Yet even he concedes a new service may not be needed. “We don’t need to move it from the USAF to create the space smart-force we need,” he said.

What the military does need, he said, is to create career paths for people who specialize in space. To stay ahead over the next half-century, the United States needs to “grow the space leaders.” He compared the foundation of the U.S. Air Force, which guaranteed the expertise in personnel, led to the United States’ dominance in the air. “The same will be true for space,” he said.

In related news, the US Army has identified its members that would be the most likely Space Force service personnel.

More than 70 percent of the Army’s major weapons and equipment need satellites to function. About 2,220 active-duty soldiers, reservists and civilians make up the “space forces” under the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

“We are the biggest users of space,” said Brig. Gen. Tim Lawson, deputy commanding general for operations at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

…“Do we want to be part of the Space Force? That is yet to be determined,” Lawson said. “I think there’s a lot more to come, and the Army is part of this planning process.”

Besides a more effective defense force, another benefit is economic. Morgan Stanley has crunched the numbers and reports that the move could fuel a new $1 trillion economy.

In a note to clients Friday, the bank doubled down on its intergalactic thesis from last October, saying the Space Force “could address critical vulnerabilities in national security, raising investor awareness in the formation of what we see as the next trillion-dollar economy.”

Morgan Stanley has already identified 20 stocks staking their place in the space race, and says it’s monitoring 100 other private companies across sectors including satellite internet, rockets, space tourism, and asteroid mining as the push to pioneer this new frontier heats up.

“Our conversations with various actors (current and retired) in the US government, military, and intelligence communities overwhelmingly indicate that space is an area where we will see significant development,” a team of analysts led by Adam Jonas, the bank’s autos analyst, wrote in Friday’s note. “This development could enhance US technological leadership and address vulnerabilities in surveillance, mission deployment, cyber, and AI.”

Finally, the US Space Force would be focused on identifying and targeting new, space-based threats.

…[B]ecause the satellites have become integral to how America conducts military operations on Earth, Russia and China are developing ways of degrading or destroying U.S. satellites in wartime. If such attacks achieved their intended aims, they would thoroughly disrupt the U.S. military’s ability to conduct war anywhere. For instance, the U.S. Army figures each of its armored brigades contains over 2,000 pieces of equipment that rely on space assets to function. Kill the satellites, and the brigades are hobbled.

The US Space Force could also fight real climate change….by defending the Earth from killer asteroids.

…[I]t stands to reason that any national concerted effort to defend Earth from an incoming asteroid would involve at least some military assets in space for asteroid tracking or deflection. And if a Space Force is in service at that time, it’s likely to play a role — after all, the Air Force already works hard to maintain space situational awareness of objects orbiting Earth.

Looking at the data, there is certainly much to be excited about! Vive la US Space Force!


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notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | July 2, 2018 at 11:09 am


OnTheLeftCoast | July 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

USSF unoffical motto: “We operate where everything really sucks.”

Here are the problems with a dedicated Space Force, at this time.

1) There is virtually no HUMAN presence in extra-atmospheric, cislunar space. With the exception of the ISS, there is no human extra-atmospheric presence at all. Everything up there is currently controlled from the planetary surface.

2) A dedicated DOJ Space Force would be a defensive military organization, just like the rest of the US military, and would not be responsible for translunar exploration. This would be done by a civil space agency in conjunction with private enterprise.

3) The establishment of an autonomous Space Force would require the establishment of a separate command and support organization, which would have to be established and funded. And, as there is unlikely to be any significant human presence in extra-atmospheric space, this organization will be the entire Space Force.

4) The Air Force already handles most of the military aspects of any dedicated Space Force. And, could continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

So, until human beings are routinely operating in tranlunar space, a dedicated Space Force would be, largely, a huge waste of money and resources which could be better applied through existing government agencies.

    alaskabob in reply to Mac45. | July 2, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I would add that present propulsion systems are limited in capability. That being said, other groups are discussing and prototypically dealing with deep space issues as discussed at Centauri Dreams website.

    Low earth orbit still has major strategic value despite earth’s gravity well. Hypersonic mixed propulsion craft operating at very high altitudes could be potent….even Sanger designed craft for Germany to attempt this.

    Finally, having a real Bab-5 Space Fury would be really really cool…without or without Ivanova.

    02sbxstr in reply to Mac45. | July 2, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    What the heck is cislunar? English please.

      Mac45 in reply to 02sbxstr. | July 2, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Cislunar space is the space between the Earth and the Moon’s orbit. Translunar space is the space beyond the Moon’s orbit.

      As you are using the internet to access this site, it should be a breeze to use any internet search engine to find the definition of most terms. Practice your Google-foo, grasshopper.

        PODKen in reply to Mac45. | July 2, 2018 at 1:34 pm

        “Cis” and “Trans” terms applied to space? Geez … ya just can’t get away from this “identity” stuff …

      Milhouse in reply to 02sbxstr. | July 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      It is English. “Cis-” and “trans-” are perfectly ordinary English prefixes that anyone literate in the language can be expected to recognize.

        Anonamom in reply to Milhouse. | July 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm

        Since we’re apparently revelling in our pedantism (again, ad nauseam), it is, indeed, Latin in origin, from the Latin word “cis,” meaning “on this side of.” And I would suggest that the prefix “cis” is no where near commonly used, outside of academic circles at least.

          Tom Servo in reply to Anonamom. | July 2, 2018 at 8:10 pm

          You’ll see them used in chemistry quite a bit, especially in the description of organic compounds and stereoisomers.

          Anonamom in reply to Anonamom. | July 2, 2018 at 8:43 pm

          Mr. Servo: I don’t doubt that use of that prefix is common in certain specialized circles. I just objected to the (annoying, condescending, pedantic) suggestion that it is commonly used. I didn’t mean to offend (you.) 😉

    tom_swift in reply to Mac45. | July 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    There is virtually no HUMAN presence in extra-atmospheric, cislunar space.

    Not too many humans live in the air, either. Or on or under water. Yet I hear little talk of eliminating the Air Force or Navy.

      Mac45 in reply to tom_swift. | July 2, 2018 at 4:41 pm

      Wow, the only person in the entire world who has never seen an AIRport or SEAport. Amazing. What did you think all of those airplanes and ships were for, if not to move HUMAN BEINGS through the air and across the water. On the other hand, we have less than a dozen human beings outside the Earth’s atmosphere at any one time while we have literally thousands traveling in the air and over and under water not to mention the billions who actually live within the atmosphere.

      When mankind actually begins to live in space and travel to other worlds, THEN we will have a use for a Space Force. Until then, there really is NO need for one.

    forksdad in reply to Mac45. | July 2, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Do you think Africa command is based in Africa? Seriously, screw practicality, I don’t care. Most of our budget is already boondoggle. At least we can get back into space. Maybe build Orion.

    The future is up there.

      Mac45 in reply to forksdad. | July 2, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      Uh, actually, Africa is the region in which the Africa Command operates, hence the name. But, the Africa Command is not a branch of the US military equivalent to the Army, Nave or Air Force. However, the Africa Command runs certain military operations in Africa, against other human beings, usually AFRICANS. In the case of space, there is no human threat in space, at the moment. So, what military actions are we contemplating there? Once we have identified a reasonable potential threat, in space, then we might, might need a dedicated branch of the military to deal with it. Until then we do not need a Space Force.

        forksdad in reply to Mac45. | July 2, 2018 at 9:35 pm

        Africa command is based out of Europe despite the name unless the perfumed princes decided to move in the last few years.

        Who in the world would live in Africaif they have the option of Europe?

          Mac45 in reply to forksdad. | July 3, 2018 at 12:12 pm

          So, what is your POINT?

          We have an Africa Command, which is made up of elements of all the existing services, to coordinate the activities of those services when addressing the threats of humans LIVING on the African continent. It is NOT a military service equivalent to the Army, Navy, or Air Force, all of which are led by Secretaries. And, there is no one living, or even traveling, in space, to any extent.

MAC45 has some good points. I would like to add:

5) Until an alternative propulsion system that doesn’t take a massive amount of space for the fuel there will be limitations on what a USSF can accomplish. There needs to be a couple of advances in technology before a USSF should be considered.

6) NASA has been a very expensive operation. Space-X has demonstrated it can go to space cheaper, more efficiently, and return with a precision better than any other space program in the world.

    tom_swift in reply to Tsquared. | July 2, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    Until an alternative propulsion system that doesn’t take a massive amount of space for the fuel there will be limitations on what a USSF can accomplish.

    The United State was transformed into a world power—much to nearly everyone’s surprise—by Navy ships which didn’t even have engines.

      alaskabob in reply to tom_swift. | July 2, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      Including technological advancements including live oak hull rather than only white oak (USS Constitution) and later, the USS Monitor.

      Having mentioned a Space Fury…. maybe we will have Fireball XL-5 someday or a real Rocky Jones-Space Ranger.

        Mac45 in reply to alaskabob. | July 2, 2018 at 4:43 pm

        If the world survives long enough and humanity continues to expand as it has historically, we will need a Space Force. But, that time has not yet come. Someday, though.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to tom_swift. | July 2, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      We can expect significant resources to be devoted to advancing the technology. We can also expect welfare recipients to be against space force or exploration. They will insist that money be spent on them. Personally, I think we should reallocate their welfare benefits to the space force, give them seeds in the spring, and allow them to either produce their own food or expire.

Have fun looking at including engines and spacecraft as viewed through real and imaginary lenses.

smalltownoklahoman | July 2, 2018 at 11:56 am

Do we need an extra arm of the military dedicated strictly to space? At this time, no. As others have already pointed out, the U.S. Airforce already handles a lot of that. Do we need to prepare more and improve on how we protect our assets in space? Definitely YES! Other competitive countries around the world are developing antisat tech of their own and as pointed out in the article our military (and increasingly our societies) are heavily dependent on satellite technology to function. Letting a potential enemy cripple our military by taking out some of our satellites, either shutting them down (virus) or destroying them, is unacceptable now and will become more so over time.

    DINORightMarie in reply to smalltownoklahoman. | July 2, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    You mention “virus” – that is why I am intrigued about whether cybersecurity would be swept up into a USSF. Cybersecurity looks at how cyber space is defended, can be attacked, and both reports and hopefully prevents such attacks from foreign agents.

    tom_swift in reply to smalltownoklahoman. | July 2, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    U.S. Airforce already handles a lot of that

    And during “The Big One” the Air Force’s business was handled entirely by the Army. This is not generally considered to be a sound argument that the postwar Air Force is redundant.

DINORightMarie | July 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

I would like to ask –

1) How does NASA fit into this? Currently it is an executive branch agency, independent of any military or defense-related agency (e.g. DHS which works with homeland security, including satellite protection and cybersecurity).

2) How would the government and “nationalizing” if you will the PRIVATE space industry affect the economy, and progress? As we saw with Space-X and with the devolution of safety with the Shuttle program, government is usually not the best answer.

3) What are our “enemies” doing – and what are their long-term plans regarding space and satellites? I clearly remember that Reagan’s “Star Wars” program scared the international community, positing that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI – aka “Star Wars”) was decried because it was “weaponizing space” which was – and still is, I believe – considered an international neutral zone.

4) Is that last statement still true – is outer space still considered an international neutral zone? If there are plans (or are already assets deployed) which have weaponized space, then it is a moot point–>we MUST have a Space Force if this is already in progress.

5) How would cybersecurity fit into this equation? It is a form of “space” – not land, not sea, not air, not space – but affects all of these, or is related to all of these, at some level. So, would the Space Force take on the mission of cybersecurity?

Just some thoughts rolling around in my head after reading this very relevant, very intriguing think piece!

The advantage of a dedicated space force is that there will be one person (The Secretary) and one organization under that person that will be responsible to the president and the Congress. Now, there is a lot of room for buck passing.

The disadvantage of a space force is that it’s going to cost a fortune and the existing branches will be very unwilling to give up their current turf/money/power to get it up and running.

In the long run, I think it’s inevitable that we will have one. The only question is, do we want to do it now? I suppose it’s better than waiting until too late but I worry that it will be over-bureaucratized (like most of DoD) and under-resourced and the mission will suffer.

    tom_swift in reply to irv. | July 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    and the existing branches will be very unwilling to give up their current turf/money/power to get it up and running.

    It’s not obvious that that’s a disadvantage.

There wasn’t anybody on the moon, when JFK made going to the moon a goal, and NASA was formed. A dedicated space force should be established well ahead of the actual capability of placing people in space or on the moon on a long-term basis.

It takes that much planning.

Yes, it will cost a fortune. So did NASA, but if the economic benefits are anything like those from NASA, we will be glad we did it.

People like to point to computers and miniaturization as benefits from NASA, but there were also enormous advances in new materials development. The technical problems to be addressed by the Space Force could go a long way to solving the Climate Change problem, because of the need for ecological study.

    gmac124 in reply to Valerie. | July 3, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    A couple of issues with your statement. Nasa was actually formed in the late 50’s before JFK was elected for one. The other is that climate change is not a problem that can be solved. The climate will continue to change forever whether we are here or not.

buckeyeminuteman | July 2, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Sounds like a good idea, but not at this time. The Air Force already has an entire major command dedicated to space. An additional branch would create all kinds of new brass and top officer positions as well as admins, personnelists, etc. We don’t need all those extra desk flyers.

Seeing that NASA hasn’t even launched humans into space since 2011, and even then haven’t gone past 250 miles up since 1972, I don’t believe the government is well suited anymore to get mankind to explore. Look at SpaceX and a small handful of others for that now. The space defense systems can and should be left in the Air Force.

DouglasJBender | July 2, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Star Fleet. Uniforms based on the original Star Trek series. Affirmative Action awards for trans-Vulcans.

inspectorudy | July 2, 2018 at 3:23 pm

This sounds a lot like the debate about the Army Airforce that existed during WWII. After the war, the US Air Force was established so that the Army could focus on ground warfare and the USAF could focus on air combat and interdiction. I was in the USMC and we were the stepchild of the US Navy. We got nothing except hand-me-downs and had to make do with equipment that was surplused out by the USAF and Army. All branches of the armed services fight for their piece of the pie and any new space force within the USAF will be looking at hand-me-downs like the USMC. It takes no imagination at all to see what would happen if our satellites used for almost everything were knocked out by another space force. It can be done with satellite drones or missiles but we have no defense. All of our ships, planes, and ground forces use them for navigation. All of our most secure communications are space-based. What is the USAF doing about it? Almost nothing since they have their plate filled with the porky F 35. No, we need a dedicated SF and we need it asap.

    Mac45 in reply to inspectorudy. | July 2, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    The Army Air Corps is an excellent example of exactly what having a dedicated fighting service accomplishes; nothing. The Air Corp was splintered off from the Army, following WWII and became the autonomous Air Force. Immediately, it embarked upon its own agenda, which did not support that of its parent service, the Army. The Army was forced to fight tooth and nail to develop its own air arm, Army Aviation and to have the Key West Agreement amended by the Pace-Finletter MOU 1952 and the Johnson-McConnell agreement of 1966 in order to develop and use armed tactical aircraft, most notably helicopters. The Navy, and its subordinate service the USMC, were allowed to maintain a tactical aviation force. So, the Army required its own aircraft, including tactical fighting aircraft, as did the Navy and Marine Corps.

    Now, to safeguard our orbital assets, we have to guard the orbital assets themselves, either through manned combat assets or remote controlled combat assets, as well as the surface infrastructure which allows them to work properly. GPS is useless if the GPS satellite signal is jammed or blocked. Communications satellites have the same problem, as well as requiring significant surface installations for most of their functions. And, all that is necessary to knock out satellites is a couple of hundred pounds of ball bearings launched into a counter orbit from the surface or from airborne assets operating within the atmosphere. None of which require the use of a Space Force.

    Someday we will need a Space Force and one should be planned for [I suspect such plans already exist]. But, one is not needed now. Of course, SDI never really worked either, as a Space Defense. It did work to help destabilize the USSR, however.

    Mac45 in reply to inspectorudy. | July 2, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    One thing to consider is the placement of kinetic energy weapons in orbit, which would allow for devastating orbital bombardment of land- and sea-based targets. If these weapons are ever emplaced in orbit [and that may already be the case], this would change the shape of the world overnight.

As if anybody in their right minds believes that we ain’t already there, and there ain’t nobody else playing the game.
‘Nuff said.

    Mac45 in reply to snowshooze. | July 2, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    If we are all there, then why do we need to CREATE a military arm which is equivalent to the Army, Navy and Air Force to operate there? Someone is already doing it, no? Let them continue.

The financial arguments are one thing, but after the F35 and the LCS … nah.. it just doesn’t matter. The rationale for the Air Force, IMO is dated. Move missile defense to Space Force. Anything that flies above FL500, Space Force. Everything else, give back to the Army. We haven’t fought in contested airspace ENOUGH to need a dedicated Air Force since the Air Force was split off. The AF wastes money and handicaps the Army. There is a lot of slop in the AF. ( yes, I’m a Army Aviation Vet. ) Ha! The future is in space and drones. The AF will fight both as long as they can.