The Case For Us To Have a Space Force

Think Space Force is a joke? Here are four major space threats to take seriously

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced the Trump administration is laying the groundwork a new Space Force and eventually a separate military branch, dedicated to space.

While the merits of a new organization are debatable, U.S. national security space systems are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from cyberattacks and jamming to anti-satellite missiles, according to a Center for Strategic and International Studies report published earlier this year. Russia and China, and to a lesser degree North Korea and Iran, are all threatening America’s military through its dependence on space.

“Given our dependence and that of our allies and partners on space, the loss of critical assets today could prove decisive to our ability to monitor critical events like missile launches or nuclear tests, or to successfully prosecute a military campaign,” retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the former chief of U.S. Strategic Command, said in the forward to the report. “Urgent action is needed.”

A number of people have said that if Obama had come up with this a lot of people laughing at Trump and Pence wouldn’t be. Fair enough, thought if Obama had come up with it we’d assume an actual plan with strategic objectives. It the administration is actually serious about this, and not just selling campaign gear, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

President Donald Trump’s re-election team seized on his administration’s push for a “Space Force” on Thursday, pledging to sell branded merchandise to his supporters.

“President Trump wants a SPACE FORCE — a groundbreaking endeavor for the future of America and the final frontier,” read an email from the Trump campaign. “As a way to celebrate President Trump’s huge announcement, our campaign will be selling a new line of gear.”
The letter from campaign manager Brad Parscale then invited supporters to vote on the campaign’s logo for the proposed military branch. The campaign email followed efforts from the Trump administration on the same day to drum up support for the proposal and outline how the Pentagon would take its first steps.
Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech where he called for the creation of a new military service for space by 2020, building on Trump’s previous calls for one, and Trump issued a tweet on Thursday where he said, “Space Force all the way!”

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38 thoughts on “The Case For Us To Have a Space Force

  1. We have at least two perfectly capable branches of the military to handle things above the atmosphere; the Navy, and if we are still taking them seriously*, the Air Force.

    *I remain of the opinion that the USAF is pointless and the Navy could handle their mission just fine.

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    • Unsurprisingly most of the USAF around here hold the corresponding opinion about the Navy, when it comes to space stuff at least.

      (That said, one of my friends is both former Captain in the USAF and married to a Navy officer, and his opinion converges with yours. But he’s always been the self-deprecating type.)

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      • While science fiction writers have a mixed record on predicting the future, for a space force with actual people, the ratio of “navy in space” stories versus “air force in space” is what? 10:1? 100:1? If it’s drones and autonomous systems, who runs ’em doesn’t matter much. For the foreseeable future, though, platforms staffed with people are going to look an awful lot like ballistic missile submarine duty.

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        • This.

          The Air Force certainly has the whole ‘flying high’ thing down, but at the end of the day, if you want to put more than a 5 man team into a ship and cast it out into an incredible hostile environment, you want sailors.

          The Navy already has all the institutions and training that allow men and women to live a long time in extremely close quarters and to develop the habits and skills* needed to fight and survive as a ship. There isn’t a lot of difference in keeping a ship air tight versus water tight (and modern Navy surface ships, not just subs, can be made air tight in the event of an NBC attack). And fighting a ship is a whole lot different from fighting a small craft. The air force can’t even claim to have a premium on fighting in 3D space, because the Navy has sub commanders and pilots and commanders whose battle space is wholly above and below the surface.

          The Air Force would have to develop all of that from the ground up.

          * Fire fighting, flood control, damage control, etc. Everyone on a ship participates in these kinds of things. Also other skills like launching and recovering small craft, be it a fighter or a shuttle.

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        • Michael Cain: For the foreseeable future, though, platforms staffed with people are going to look an awful lot like ballistic missile submarine duty.

          Probably more like SSGN missions than SSBN ones, to be nitpicky.

          (Note to editors/mods – my comments under my normal gravatar linked email seem to mostly get sucked into a black hole lately)

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          • Yeh, we’re really struggling with that, and it’s not just you at all, many comments a day go straight to moderated and have to be fished back out For No Reason. A lot of them reappear once we find them in pending and approve them (eg your first version of this comment), which since it’s manual sometimes no one is near a computer at that exact second to do it, so there can be considerable lag….

            But are you also still seeing some that just outright disappear and never come back? That was happening up til a few days ago, for sure, Will did some stuff and we thought it got fixed; but if it hasn’t… I should make sure he knows about it.

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              • Yeah, the delay is “until one of the less than half-dozen people who can approve comments either reloads the page, gets a notif, or thinks “hm, I should check and see if any comments are hung up”. It sucks that that eats the edit window though.

                It’s way more annoying for you guys than us, I am aware. But at this precise moment, Will’s doing some other server-side stuff that precludes aggressively trying to fix it (any more than he already did to get it to stop eating the comments totally).

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  2. I do think it’s a joke because we have had a Space Command component for 35+ years, and it like the rest of the military has become more and more joint force as time goes on. The president cannot unilaterally create another branch of the military, congress has to do so both in structure and funding. While important to stay ahead of the threats listed, we can do so within current structure, not adding yet another bureaucratic layer to the already over-bloated DOD. Hard pass and actively oppose.

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    • Andrew Donaldson: I do think it’s a joke because we have had a Space Command component for 35+ years, and it like the rest of the military has become more and more joint force as time goes on.

      This. +1. etc etc.

      Industry insiders reports that 37.4% of all Buzz Lightyear toys ever sold have gone to people receiving them as a going away gift after receiving orders to USSPACECOM, JFFC SGS, or JFFC SPACE

      More seriously, reviewing the history, it just occured to me a possible motivation for this Space Force malarkey. There’s been a battle between the DoD and the NSA for being the king cheese poobah in charge of “cyber” for well over a decade now. Recently, there’s been kinda of a peace treaty with the elevation of USCYBERCOM as a Unified Command. But previously a lot of the DoD side of cyber was put in USSTRATCOM – which is where USSPACECOM moved to after 9/11. So someone in the space side could now be trying to sprout bureacratic wings themselves and fly away from the STRATCOM nest.

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  3. If only someone here at Ordinary Times had written about this very thing thirteen months ago when the idea was first floated.

    Unmentioned yet anywhere is the need to defend the entire Earth from an extraterrestrial threat — I don’t mean aliens, but asteroids. Some space geeks and NASA types have talked about this a bit but there’s been no serious proposals advanced that I know of and certainly no concrete action taken.

    We know that from time to time the Earth is struck by asteroids and a sufficiently large or fast one could have devastating effects. Do we shoot ICBMs at it? Do we send oil drillers to drop nukes into its interior and listen to mawkish Aerosmith songs? I don’t know the answer, but it’s something that if we do have a space force, I’d like to see at least a focus group study and offer sober proposals. If those proposals require new technological innovation, so much the better – such innovations may well have other applications, hopefully peaceful ones.

    The odds of this happening in our lifetimes are low, to be sure, but we prepare elaborately for other low-odds, high-stakes events.

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    • Boy, it’s been a long time since I looked through all the material that’s been written on the subject. The size and number of nuclear weapons required to either sufficiently fragment or change the orbit of objects up to the size of the dinosaur-killer have been worked out in painful detail and are quite manageable. On a small scale, the theory was tested by Deep Impact, with a good match. Delivering those bomb(s) is a bitch — a deep space mission, heavy payload, lots of delta-v in a relatively short time. A nuclear thermal rocket built and fueled in lunar orbit might do the job. Or an Orion-drive platform, same location.

      Most of these currently violate the Outer Space Treaty. And they would be bloody expensive. But none of them require New Physics, and would almost certainly work eventually. As 15-year-old me whined to my father when he got me up in the middle of the night in 1969 to watch the moon landing, “Dad, it’s just engineering.”

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