Vernuccio’s View: Space Force Established

More than any other nation, America is dependent on its orbital assets for vital military and civilian endeavors. The nations’ adversaries have noticed, and are taking steps to threaten that high frontier.

Last August, Daniel Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, warned that  “China and Russia will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use. Both Russia and China continue to pursue anti-satellite weapons as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness. Russia and China aim to have nondestructive and destructive counter-space weapons available for use during a potential future conflict. We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems.”

Both Moscow and Beijing have not been shy about their ability to attack American assets in space. Several years ago, China destroyed one of its own obsolete weather satellites in a test of its anti-satellite weaponry. In response,  the White House has now officially moved to establish the Space Force  as a component of the United States Air Force. The relationship may be similar to that of the United States Marine Corps to the Navy. The Secretary of Defense is preparing a legislative proposal that would establish the new branch of the armed services.

According to President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-4:

“Although United States space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of our potential adversaries, those potential adversaries are now advancing their space capabilities and actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis or conflict.  It is imperative that the United States adapt its national security organizations, policies, doctrine, and capabilities to deter aggression and protect our interests. Toward that end, the Department of Defense shall take actions under existing authority to marshal its space resources to deter and counter threats in space, and to develop a legislative proposal to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces within the Department of the Air Force. This is an important step toward a future military department for space …”

Credit: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Everett Allen, US DoD

The President noted that America must be fully equipped to defend its orbital interests.  “Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that. That’s why my administration has recognized space as a warfighting domain and made the creation of the Space Force a national security priority.  I think we’ll have great support from Congress, because they do support something when we’re talking about such importance.  And a lot of the generals, a lot of the people involved have been speaking to Congress.  And we have some very interesting dialogue going on. We’re investing in new space capabilities to project military power and safeguard our nation’s interests, especially when it comes to safety and defense.”

Vice President Pence, who serves as the head of the National Space Council, emphasized that “this is now the foundation of ensuring that even as we are dominant in space today, now we’ll begin to bring all of our resources together under U.S. Space Command, which will operate under the Department of the Air Force.  And in so doing, we’ll ensure that we bring the best resources and the best minds together to protect the American people and advance our interests.”

No new branch of the Armed Forces has been created since the United States Air Force was established in 1947 – over 70 years ago.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.