Movers and SHAKERS
Space Force: Necessary to Maintain U.S. Strategic Dominance?
(Note: related companies are at base of the story and all the sources listed in the "Balanced" section)
On February 19 th President Trump called for the creation of “Space Force,” a new U.S. Department of Defense branch. To reside as part of the Air Force, Space Force would control U.S. military operations in space. Space Policy Directive 4 directs the Defense Secretary to write a legislative proposal for Congress to set up the Space Force and create a civilian undersecretary of the Air Force for space. The Directive also re-commits the Trump Administration goal of creating Space Command, which would be a separate branch of the U.S. military. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Challenges to Security in Space, space-based capabilities provide integral support to military, commercial, and civilian applications. As longstanding technological and cost barriers to space have fallen, more countries and commercial firms are participating in satellite construction, space launch, space exploration, and human spaceflight.
The DIA report goes on to say, “Chinese and Russian military doctrines indicate that they view space as important to modern warfare and view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness.” Both reorganized their militaries in 2015, emphasizing the importance of space operations. Both have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Both states are developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based antisatellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to nonreversible effects. Other nations, including North Korea and Iran, as well as non-state organizations, have develop and/or are developing similar capabilities.
The U.S. Lags Peer Countries in the Space Race. Russia and China are years ahead of the U.S. in developing the means to destroy or disable satellites that the U.S. military depends on for everything from gathering intelligence to guiding precision bombs. “We are now approaching a point where ‘Star Wars’ is not just a movie,” according to Steve Isakowitz, CEO of The Aerospace Corp, a government funded think tank that serves the military. Mr. Isakowitz further stated, “That supremacy in space has enable us to have the world’s greatest war-fighting capability…whether it is our soldiers on the field, our drones that fly overhead, our bombers that travel around the world, intelligence we collect.”
A Step Towards Maintaining U.S. Military Dominance. Today, space is the ultimate strategic high ground. As such, he who controls the strategic high ground of space controls the world. The American military is currently the dominant force on the planet because the United States dominates the strategic high ground. First, America came to dominate the air. Then, with the advent of space travel, the U.S. military came to dominate space, the ultimate high ground.
Better Response Time. U.S. Space Command will allow the U.S. military to develop more effective operational responses to the anti-satellite threat. Given the growing operational threats to U.S. and allied space systems, it is critical that the United States develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures to respond to the anti-satellite threat. Creating a stand-alone and focused operational command like U.S. Space Force will provide additional focus to more effectively achieve this goal.
Peer Adversaries Have Already Created Unified Commands. In 2015, Russia actually combined its Space Force that manages satellites and associated tracking and control networks with their air and missile defense forces to create what they now call their Russian Aerospace Forces. That same year China engaged in a massive reorganization of its military, which saw the creation of the PLA Strategic Support Force bringing its electronic network, cyber, and space warfare forces together into a single service.
Peacetime Benefits. In peacetime there's an even bigger set of issues that are involved. For example, if you order something from Amazon and you want to track your package, that uses GPS. If you use your credit card at the gas station pump, you’re utilizing communication satellites and GPS. So an adversary, if they have the ability, can interfere with satellites systems in peacetime, to affect almost every part of daily life and a huge part of the U.S. economic system.
Is There a True Need for It? The debate over space militarization dates to at least the Cold War, when the U.S. and Soviet Union first realized that controlling space could give them an edge in a conflict. The idea of creating a U.S. Space Command is not new. Indeed, it was an active combatant command headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado from 1985 to 2002. Numerous commentators have questioned the need for Space Command. Bob Butterworth, in Breaking Defense, stated, “the [Space] Force doesn’t really have a job. As the various Space Command precursors discovered, Space is not a mission any more than the sea is a mission.”
Will Space Force Lead to a New Arms Race? And then there is the potential of creating another arms war. According to Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, “China has consistently proposed the peaceful usage of space and opposes the weaponization of space and a space arms race. We oppose further turning space into the new battleground.” Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry described the new U.S. strategy as a proof of "Washington's desire to ensure uncontested military domination in the world." It warned that the expansion of the U.S. missile defense system "will inevitably start an arms race in space with the most negative consequences for international security and stability."
Cost. While the cost of the new Space Force is to be included in the new 2020 budget proposal to be released in March, some have estimated the cost as high as $21.5 billion per year, although the vast majority would come from existing programs. In September 2018, the Air Force released an estimate of $13 billion over five years to stand up both a Space Force and a U.S. Space Command.Does It Break Existing International Treaties? In the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signatories, including the U.S., agreed “not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction nor install such weapons on celestial bodies or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.” It is unclear at this moment if the new Space Force could be deemed to be in violation of the treaty.
Out of this World, But Grounded in Reality. President Trump’s call for the creation of a Space Force and, eventually, a new arm of the military called Space Command, is grounded on the realization of how dependent the U.S., both militarily and economically, is on its space assets and how vulnerable these assets may be in a conflict. It would appear beneficial to house all military space assets under one organization for efficiency. However, one must take into account the potential reactions of our peer adversaries to ensure another arms race is not set off.
China Warns US Against ‘Turning Space Into the New Battleground', Sputnik International, December 12, 2018
Space Command More Important Than Space Force: CSAF Goldfein; Trump Signs SPD-4, Colin Clark, Breaking Defense, February 19, 2019
The Case for Space Dominance, Brandon J. Weichert, American Greatness, December 27th, 2016
Challenges to Security in Space, Defense Intelligence Agency, January 2019
Russia Warns US Missile Defense Plans Will Fuel Arms Race, Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated press via Military.com, January 19, 2019
Re-establishing U.S. Space Command is a great idea, Frank A. Rose, Brookings Institution, January 7, 2019
Does the United States Need a Space Force?, Michelle Cordero, The Heritage Foundation
What Would Space Force FIX? No One Would Notice Its Disappearance, Bob Butterworth, Breaking Defense, February 5, 2019
Space Force Actually May Be Bargain, New Cost Estimate Says, Marcus Weisgerber, November 19, 2018
Trump officially organizes the Space Force under the Air Force ... for now, Valerie Insinna, Defense News, February 19, 2019
Is the proposed U.S. Space Force really necessary to our defense?, James Jay Carafano, Tribune News Service via The Daily Astorian, August 17, 2018Trump Signs Directive Fleshing Out Proposed ‘Space Force’, Jon Harper, National Defense Magazine, February 19, 2019