Fulfilling his “America First” promise of renewing America's Space program, President Trump has launched a full-fledged Space Command that will defend and preserve America’s space dominance.
“We're gathered here in the Rose Garden to establish the United States Space Command,” Trump said at an event just last month. “It's a big deal. As the newest combatant command, SPACECOM will defend America’s vital interests in space -- the next warfighting domain. And I think that's pretty obvious to everybody. It's all about space.”
Along with SpaceCom, the Trump Administration also plans to establish Space Force, an organization that will organize, train, and equip personnel to support SpaceCom’s mission.
Earlier this summer, Trump directed the Pentagon to create the US Space Force as the sixth independent branch of the US military, making a surprise announcement at the meeting of the National Space Council. The president said he intends to revive America’s flagging space program, citing growing security concerns from China and Russia anti-satellite weapons capability.
Headed by a four-star Air Force general, General Jay Raymond, the Space Command or known as SPACECOM “will boldly deter aggression and outpace America’s rivals,” while serving as a precursor to the Space Force military service. SpaceCom will be the 11th unified combatant command that will join ranks of U.S. Cyber Command and U.S. Strategic Command.
Creating a new military service for space would concentrate on the military and defense aspects of space. A de facto “Space Force” exist within the Air Force but has shown that it is slow in picking up threats from adversaries because it is solely focused on superiority in the air than space.
The establishment of SpaceCom is a promise kept, the promise made policy victory from President Trump, but it is far from a done deal thanks to Democrats seeking to block the dedicated space force. The Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in May embraces President Trump's Space Force proposal that counters Chinese and Russian threats to America’s space-based assets for satellite communications; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as GPS.
House Armed Services members — mostly Democrats— continue to remain skeptical in creating a new armed service for space. Instead, House Democrats in July proposed a competing version of the Senate NDAA, a weak amendment to create a complicated space agency. Known as Space Corps, the Democrats proposal is an independent military branch within the Department of the Air Force with its own streamlined acquisition system, a four-star commandant on the Joint Chiefs, and a civilian secretary. The Space Corps also would not have direct oversight of missile launches conducted by the military.
It’s a shame Democrat lawmakers are opposing the idea of a space force, polarizing it due to President Trump’s enthusiastic support. Despite the idea of space military branch being floating around Washington for years and the U.S. facing a full spectrum of space-related threats, Democrats remain obstinately opposed to anything that might advance Trump’s agenda. Congress needs to stop playing partisan politics and make the bold vision of a Space Force a reality.
The United States is currently in the midst of a space race with China and Russia and the stakes are even higher. China and Russia are now aggressively challenging U.S. primacy in space as they have demonstrated the ability to jam space communications, blind optical sensors with lasers, launch direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons and operate co- orbital anti-satellite weapons that could cripple the United States in any future conflict.
Both nations see space for its own merits, as they so far, the only two nations that have the technology to send humans into space. Meanwhile, the U.S. is waiting to successfully test its NASA-sponsored program without using Russian rockets. Just a few months ago, China became the first nation to land on the far side of the Moon, enhancing its international standing into the existing “space club” between the U.S. and Russia.
Despite China and Russia being light years ahead of the United States when it comes to space, Democrats still don’t believe that a space force as the sixth military branch is necessary in order to protect America’s national security interests in space. By altering the NDAA in passing their version in the Democratic-controlled House, they have also disrupted and delayed the U.S. space program — the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) ability to move to catch up to China and Russia in a timely manner.
Lobbyists and lawsuits from companies that failed the selection process in developing a new generation of rockets have played a huge role in Democrats adjusting the procurement process. Instead of sticking to the goal of the NSSL to allow America finally to be able to reach outer space on its own, without relying on adversaries, Democrats such as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) would rather harm America’s National Security interests by making sure these companies are happy. Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin and Elon Musk of SpaceX — two companies that are delaying the progress in the space program with its lawsuits are also the two head honchos that have a history of donating large campaign contributions to Democrats. By forcing the U.S. space force to revamp its entire competitive structure, Democrats hope the program experiences delays and misses deadlines and ultimately force Trump to admit defeat on his promise to secure America’s interests in space.
Why should Democrats move to approve a space force as the sixth military branch? Because space is an essential and emerging domain of warfare, and the United States must actively defend our national interests in space. The Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard organize, train, and equip within their domains of land, sea, air, and cyber. Space doesn’t have its own branch to equip, operate, and launch satellites and missiles into orbit. A brand-new military branch would be better suited in the interests of space operations and issues.
The decision to establish an independent Space Force under the U.S. Air Force is now in the hands of Congress. Lawmakers will soon begin negotiating the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2020 fiscal year. The creation of a new separate space agency reflects the grave threats our nation faces and the hard work America must undertake. It’s alarming that Democrats do not all agree that a space agency is necessary to protect America’s national security interests in space. Democrats need to stop politicizing Trump’s agenda and should work together in committing to creating an efficient and effective United States Space Force.
President Trump shouldn’t let Democrats entangled with bureaucracies derail his vision for space policy.