Trump’s Space Force Push Reopens Arguments About Military in Space
President Donald Trump’s call this week that to create a sixth branch of the U.S. military — which he called the “Space Force” — has reopened a wider debate about whether such a move is necessary to better manage military space activities.
While the idea of a separate, space-focused military branch is not new, Trump’s surprise announcement caused a buzz on social media and news outlets.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said in a speech before a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House Monday (June 18).
“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.” That’s a big statement.
Trump’s remarks follow decades of discussion on a separate space branch, including a recent 2017 attempt to create a new U.S. Space Corps.
At the time, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee drafted legislation for the new corps in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
While the U.S. secretary of the Air Force was supposed to oversee this new branch, the U.S. Space Corps would have had its own seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Senior military officials did not universally approve the proposal, and it was ultimately withdrawn.
But some space experts say Trump’s announcement may at least spur more discussion about how to best manage space activities.
The United States has worried for many years about the security of its satellites and how to best protect them, said Barry Strauss, a military and naval historian who is a humanistic studies professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
But it’s hard to say how a Space Force would change things, because the U.S. Air Force already oversees the military’s space asset procurement budget with participation from the other military branches, pointed out Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
Also, there are concerns about how to protect satellites without breaking international treaties and, more pressingly, generating more space debris by firing offensive weapons at satellites.
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