Off We Go into the Wild Black Yonder

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Off We Go into the Wild Black Yonder

In June 2018, the President directed the Pentagon to establish a “Space Force,” describing it as a sixth branch of the U.S. military. In August, Vice President Pence said, “Establishing the Space Force is an idea whose time has come. The space environment has fundamentally changed in the last generation; what was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial.”

Some scoffed and others applauded, but the truth is, nobody knows exactly what’s going to come out of this initiative. It would be the first time the United States has launched a new military service since the Air Force received its independence from the Army in 1947. Only an act of Congress can create a new military branch, but by making the proposal, the Trump Administration has started the ball rolling.

Most experts think there is a need for some sort of major reorganization. Mark Albrecht, the executive secretary of the National Space Council from 1989 to 1992 says, “Space is a place where there is now tens of billions of dollars” in infrastructure. Everything from financial transactions to the GPS that guides your car is controlled from space, or at least facilitated by space. Military activity in space is, therefore, “not materially different from the U.S. Navy, which goes around the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean, not to create trouble or to cause wars, but to make sure that all the things we enjoy are protected.”

Consider this, the U.S. military depends heavily on space for communications, reconnaissance, and detecting incoming missiles. Russia and China have been building surface-to-air missiles powerful enough to take out a satellite, a move that has U.S. officials increasingly concerned. In 2007, China even shot down one of its own aging weather satellites in a test of the technology, which the U.S. protested.

In the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the Pentagon to study if and how it should reorganize its existing space programs to be more effective. An interim version of the study was published in March, but it is noncommittal about what was then called a unified “Space Corps.” Defense One reports that the full study calls for consolidating the U.S. military's space operations. That plan calls for establishing an entity akin to become a paid subscriber for full access.
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