US President Donald Trump stunned the world with a recent speech that should have been voiced over by James Earl Jones. The man wants a space army. Yes, he wants the Pentagon to establish the US Space Force as its sixth branch.
The idea of a wing of the armed forces active in outer space is not new, but previous administrations always approached the subject with some degree of caution. After all, China and Russia have a history of being quite precious about outer space, and that was not a game of Roulette the former property magnate’s predecessors wanted to play. Some thrills are not worth the risk of intergalactic warfare.
Protect US Interests
Trump’s shock announcement came during a speech at a National Space Council meeting, ostensibly held to discuss off-planetary traffic control. He said the monitoring of debris as well as traffic would help protect American interests, as well as promote job creation and give the nation an ego-boost.
He later singled out General Joseph F. Dunford JR, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, and asked him to handle the task of creating the envisioned space army. According to reports, various members of the administration expressed concerns about adding further strain to an already-burdened military.
Vice president Mike Pence, however, echoed his leader’s sentiments. He claimed China and Russia were creating technology capable of disrupting satellites, and said the US would need to dominate space as much as it dominated planet earth. Presumably Pence has more evidence of the claimed technology than Bush did of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Surprise for Defence Department
According to reports, Trump’s space force announcement surprised the Department of Defence. In fact, it came as a surprise even to those known for supporting the idea, such as Congressman Mike Rogers.
The statement was evidently in a different league to previous utterances by Trump, such as Biggly and Covefefe, and Rogers claimed it had been done to silence critics of the idea.
Space Force Speculation
At this stage, we can only imagine what the US or any other Space Force would look like. It would most probably incorporate Air Force Space Command, and would be on the same level as the Navy and the Army.
The actual structure, however, as well as any functions it performs would be governed by laws that do not yet exist. Right now, the proposal raises various questions about whether such a move would be legal. Experts agree that, technically, it would be legal, although it might need a change of name, as international law defines the word Force in specific ways.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, of which the US, China, and Russia are signatories, would provide further limitations. For starters, neither the US, nor any other country, can claim anything beyond the reaches of earth’s atmosphere as its territory. The treaty also prevents weapons of mass destruction, as well as nuclear weapons, from being stationed off the planet, even if they are in orbit. The conducting of military manoeuvres, as well as weapons testing and the construction of bases on planets and other heavenly bodies is also prohibited.
What the Critics Said
Although a June 2017 US House Committee on Armed Services meeting voted to include the US Space Corps in the next National Defence Authorisation Act, it did not happen as planned. Instead, when the NDAA was released, it prevented the establishment of a separate corps, and reaffirmed the Air Force Space Command’s control instead.
A number of critics expressed concerns that, were it to have gone ahead, it would not have addressed acquisitions, would result in inter-departmental disintegration, and add to bureaucratic and budgetary problems. For now, Trump will have to wait for his very own Death Star.