The sixth branch of the United States military was launched in a Rose Garden ceremony yesterday when Donald Trump inaugurated SpaceCom — Space Command.
“This is a landmark day, one that recognizes the centrality of space to America’s security and defense,” Trump said in a White House ceremony.
“SpaceCom will ensure that America’s dominance in space is never threatened,” he said.
The new command will elevate outer space and make it the equal of Central Command or the Pacific Command. Significant new resources of men and material will be devoted to space warfare.
Some critics have dismissed SpaceCom as a childish fantasy. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis opposed the formation of SpaceCom, believing it was redundant and would add unnecessary bureaucracy to the Pentagon.
But considering the money and personnel being poured into space by China and Russia, it seems a good idea to hedge our bets.
“The dangers to our country constantly evolve and so must we,” said Trump.
“Our adversaries are weaponizing earth’s orbits with new technology targeting American satellites that are critical to both battlefield operations and our way of life at home.”
“Our freedom to operate in space is also essential to detecting and destroying any missile launched against the United States,” he added.
What sort of scenarios will SpaceCom be defending against? The challenges range from “adversaries jamming communications and GPS satellites to, as China demonstrated in 2007, ground-launched missiles used to physically destroy satellites.” It’s assumed the U.S. also has an anti-satellite capability. China has also been experimenting with anti-satellite lasers that would blind our early warning system.
Defending against these threats will be the job of the Space Force. It’s unknown how the Space Force will be constituted, but you can probably rule out soldiers in space suits shooting at Russians and Chinese hundreds of miles above the earth. More likely, we will deploy highly experimental, hypersonic aircraft will patrol at ultra-high altitudes when appropriate while personnel will monitor our satellites from the ground.
“We are at a strategic inflection point where there is nothing that we do as a joint coalition force that isn’t enabled by space,” Raymond told reporters at the Pentagon.
“I’m convinced that space is a war-fighting domain. I’m convinced that our way of life and our way of war depend on space capabilities,” he said.
We have allowed our lead in space technology and hardware to dissipate due to oval office neglect and shortsighted bureaucrats. We’re still ahead in many areas, but Russia and China have both instituted crash programs to catch up.
The American space program began in the 1950s as a military response to the prospect of security threats from space. Eisenhower removed the fledgling program from control of the military and put it in civilian hands.
But the times are different and space has become a multi-faceted threat board. But are SpaceCom and Space Force really necessary? The Air Force was already devoting a huge amount of resources to space defense. Time will tell if SpaceCom becomes Trump’s folly or a vital adjunct to our national defense.