Space Force plans hit funding, leadership problems
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
In August 2018, President Trump announced that the United States armed forces would gain a new branch — the United States Space Force. The use of the Space Force is intended for space warfare.
While this concept sounds like an episode of "Doctor Who," the U.S. would not be the first country to pioneer a space force. Yet, proceeding with the United States Space Force may not be as turnkey as the presidential administration would make it seem, due to hiccups with financing and leadership.
Establishing the United States Space Force
The presidential administration announced in August of last year that the United States armed forces would establish the Space Force. However, this is not a fly-by-night idea that has no merit. In October, Todd Harrison, a defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, published a five-page letter in Commentary by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, titled "Why We Need a Space Force."
In this opinion piece, Harrison explains, "A Space Force is needed to consolidate authority and responsibility for national security space in a single chain of command; to build a robust cadre of space professionals who can develop space-centric strategy and doctrine; and to avoid the conflicts of interest inherent in the other Services that have short-changed space programs for decades."
Harrison also points out that this is not the first presidential administration considering a space force. In March 1997, the concept of transition from an air force to a space force was penned by Air Force Chief of Staff Ron Fogleman. The Rumsfeld Space Commission continued the conversation in 2001, which recommended setting up the Space Corps as a part of the Air Force but didn’t subsequently progress any further.
Then, in January of this year, Congress established Chapter 809 — Space Corps under Title XVI — Strategic Programs, Cyber, and Intelligence Matters. This congressional legislation includes the Establishment of Space Corps in the Department of the Air Force. This legislation states that the Secretary of Defense will establish a Space Corps as part of the Air Force.
Current State of the Space Force
At the present time, the presidential administration is focused on two aspects of the United States Space Force: leadership and financing. U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson turned in her resignation on March 8.
The establishment of the space force is considered a major reason for her resignation. Now Patrick Shanahan, acting secretary of defense, is leading the way and with far more support for the project.
As for the costs of the Space Force, Wilson reported that the division would cost approximately $13 billion over the next five years. In a memo discussed by NPR, Scott Horsley states the administration has yet to place an actual dollar figure on the Space Force. However, Horsley said there were reports that the administration feels it would cost less than $100 million.
Space Forces Around the World
The U.S. would potentially be the third country to have a space force. The first country was China with the establishment of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. China set up the service branch as part of military reform in 2015. The force handles space operations as well as cyber and electronic warfare for all of China.
The other country with a space force is Russia. There, the Space Force is part of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. The Russian Aerospace Forces, which is also known as the VKS, were also established in 2015, the same year as China. The VKS manages the identification and watchful eye for space objects that are potentially threatening to the Russian Federation.
If the U.S. is able establish a space force it would not be the first of its kind. However, getting the United States Space Force off the ground may be a lot more difficult than the presidential administration took into account.
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