National Security , Newsline

How the Space Force Can Restore Our Edge Against China, Russia

Posted on Friday, February 22, 2019
by Outside Contributor

The U.S. just moved one step closer to creating a Space Force.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump directed the Department of Defense to draft legislation to establish the Space Force as a new branch of the military under the secretary of the Air Force. 

This move is an important step toward defending the space domain, which is home to critical assets that deliver everything from precision targeting and missile launch warning, to the communications and signals that allow banking, commerce, travel, and almost every other aspect of our high-tech society to function.

Russia and China are aware of our near-complete reliance on space systems, and they have positioned themselves to move against them. It’s been over 11 years since China proved it is capable of destroying satellites in space using ground-based missiles, and in the years since, Russian satellites co-orbiting in close proximity with ours have been equally provocative.

In 2018, an independent report emerged from a bipartisan congressional directive that recommended the U.S. establish an independent Space Force through a two-phased approach that would re-establish our dominance in the space domain.    

In the months since, the Trump administration has used the president’s current authorities to execute the first phase of that approach, and one of its first priorities has been acquisition of new technologies.

Acquisition has been difficult in recent years. The fragmentation and overlap among the six organizations that manage space requirements, and the eight others charged with acquisition, have contributed to program delays, cost increases, and even cancellations. 

To fix those issues, the president directed the Pentagon to create the Space Development Agency, a new organization that will streamline and accelerate the fielding of cutting-edge military space assets.

For decades, the U.S. has promoted and sustained a policy of peaceful use of and access to space. But giving operators a leg up in space systems will only be relevant if the personnel operating those systems embrace a more aggressive mindset. 

Last December, the president moved to do just that by ordering the military to establish the space combatant command, an organization that specializes in combat operations in space. Just as Central Command handles military operations in the Middle East, Space Command will be charged with those same responsibilities in the domain of space.

The president will formalize the order later this year by signing a revised Unified Command Plan. 

Like the other combatant commands, Space Command will rely on the four Defense Department services to provide trained and equipped personnel to execute its mission. As it stands now, operators will come from the four standing branches of the military—each with their own standards, organizations, and tribal mindsets. 

America’s air, land, and naval combatants are trained and equipped by services established specifically for those domains, and the forces that combatant commanders receive from each are raised with the same tactics, standards, and doctrines. That creates a problem for the Space Command, as its forces will need uniform standards and practices.

The Space Force would solve that issue, but the president does not have the authority to establish a new service on his own.    

Only Congress has the authority to add a fifth Department of Defense service by changing Title X of the U.S. Code. So on Tuesday, the president took steps to request Congress make that change. 

From the information we have collected, implementing the Space Force will not require major resources. Fewer than 5,000 additional personnel would need to be added to the Defense Department to establish the organizations detailed in both phases of implementation, and both could be executed and sustained at a cost of less than $500 million a year—less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the military’s current budget.  

If the outlay of that money will put the United States back in front of China and Russia in space, it will be worth every penny. 

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The Freezing Senior
The Freezing Senior
5 years ago

Just contract that out to the Thunderbirds.
They have been at it since the 60’s and they know what they’re doing.

5 years ago

The Space Force has two specific goals based on all information that has been made available to the public::
1) To secure and defend our space-based military and civilian satellites against both physical and cyber threats.
2) To provide the means to effectively counter-attack against any threat to item 1.

Today we have a cyber command under the primary control of the Air Force. That will no doubt be rolled into the new umbrella of the Space Command. President Trump has already loosened the restrictions that the Obama administration placed on the rules of engagement. All that is likely needed in this area is additional head count of highly skilled white hat hackers to address the deficiency in we face against the number of military personnel China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have deployed against us on a daily basis.. We also need more systems developers and programmers to create new tools for our front-line hackers to use. Obviously all these personnel will need state of the art technology to do their jobs properly, So the usual multi-year governmental procurement process of RFI’s, RPQ’s and RFP’s has to be greatly streamlined and reduced or we will always we fighting today’s technological threats with yesterday’s hardware and software.

The second item, especially when is comes to physical counter-measures to protect our space-based assets, is where we face the biggest challenge and cost. The Chinese and the Russians already have the means to destroy our satellites by either ground-based missile launches or, in the case of the Russians, simply ramming one of their satellites into one of ours. My guess is a number of the Russian satellites were put into space solely for that purpose, should the need arise, over the decades. So developing effective counter-measures to the existing threats will take a serious, long-term commitment on our part.

What this article completely skips is the fact that Congress would have to authorize funds for this purpose. With the Democrats controlling the House and their long history of being against anything related military budgets or national defense, I find it hard to see how any significant budget allocation for the Space Force can get approved over the next two years. We just had a demonstration of what the Democrats view as adequate resources for something as straight-forward as border security, which the Republicans meekly went along with. Does anyone seriously think Nancy Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats, to say nothing of Chuck Schumer and his Democrat minority in the Senate, will approve ANY funding this?

Elections have consequences and we had better hope none of our enemies decide to strike us over the next two years in this manner, because Congress is going to ignire this issue like they do with so many others. The President has done all he can do by identifying the threat and getting rid of the Obama era restrictions on our existing cyber force. Getting actually funding from Congress is where the momentum stops.

Dwayne Armstrong
Dwayne Armstrong
5 years ago

To be the leader in the free world the US needs to have the extra edge with this new Space Force!

Christopher Robin
Christopher Robin
5 years ago

Considering how long it took us (and everyone else) to figure out how to work in space (IE: turn a wrench, weld or join materials, etc…), it is logical to think that everything else will take special training as well. This goes for everything from basic movement to shooting a projectile. Such a force is long overdue and should have been a special focus long ago and not just at NASA.

Bob L.
Bob L.
5 years ago

A Space Force? I think we have, and so do our enemies, have weapons in orbit since the early 1960’s. True, there was supposed to be agreements to not weaponize space, but nobody could afford or would abide by such an agreement. With nukes now built to inflict EMP events over each other’s countries, there is no need for conventional, contaminating nukes which would be less effective anyway and contaminate they own countries with fallout.. Yes, conventional nukes are still in stockpiles here and in Russia and Red China, but so are chemical and biological weapons, none of which are likely to be used. Rogue nations like Iran are the ones that may use conventional nukes, if they dare.

5 years ago

They better figure out how to take out a hypersonic missile.

5 years ago

This may just be too little too late, since we have been financing the russian development in space operations by paying russians to carry our astronauts into space, and more than likely sharing our most secret information, for the last decade or so.

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