Donald Trump has yet again followed through on one of his promises: he is reinvigorating America’s space policy.
The White House has finally taken seriously those of us who have called for the weaponization of space. Placing strategic weapons into orbit would better defend the United States from attack, as well as threaten nuclear-armed rogue states, such as Iran and (should the ongoing talks with Kim Jong-un collapse) North Korea.
Here’s the rub, though: for all of their talk about space dominance, the military really doesn’t want a new branch cluttering the Pentagon. From their perspective, the space force would pull talent away from the technical services (such as the Air Force and Navy) and siphon off exorbitant sums of taxpayer dollars to fund its complex operations.
Yet leaving space mostly to the Air Force has not enhanced America’s capabilities in orbit.
Instead, the Air Force has taken the chunk of cash bestowed upon it for space missions under the imprimatur of the much-ballyhooed Air Force Space Command and merely requisitioned those funds for other “more immediate” needs. It’s a culture thing. The Air Force worries about “air dominance” and looks at space as secondary to its mission, whereas China and Russia have both recognized the strategic importance of space by creating independent branches dedicated to space operations.
Given that none of the other branches of America’s armed forces—including the Secretary of Defense—want to see the formation of the sixth branch of service, one can see history repeating itself. The military tends to fight innovation and bureaucratic reform across the board. Remember, the Air Force initially grew out of the Army Air Corps in World War II. Following that conflict, Congress believed that an independent branch solely dedicated to air operations and maintaining nuclear arms (along with the Navy) was necessary.
Thus, the Air Force was born.
The existing branches at the time all conspired to kill the Air Force in its infancy, lest it grow to become the most heavily-funded branch in the armed forces. Right now, there are elements within the Department of Defense looking to stymie the president’s new executive order.
Unless the president and his team are extra vigilant, the deep state will slow-walk the formation of this new service in the same way that it slow-walked the Hillary Clinton email investigation. As the bureaucracy maneuvers its unwieldy self for the mother of all turf battles, our enemies will grow stronger, and we will become less safe. But, hey, we need to make sure the Air Force has another $1 trillion to build more worthless F-35 fighters so that China can continue to see and detect, thanks to their innovative quantum radar, while we continue to pretend to be cutting edge.
There Be Doves Here!
Of course, the president’s declaration faces a significant snag in the form of international treaties forbidding the weaponization of space. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 explicitly forbids it, for example. That agreement was based on the utopian concept that if the international community simply declared space off-limits to military operations then it would remain weapons-free.
The same kind of utopians who forced the Outer Space Treaty down America’s throat in the 1960s continue to dominate the national security space policy community—even in the Trump Administration. So get ready to witness the strangest alliance in American history: peacenik science nerds and bureaucratically territorial Pentagon war chiefs united in their opposition to a space force.
While America did sign the Outer Space Treaty—and several others related to space—we also refused to ratify the Moon Treaty (which was considered the other foundational treaty in international space law). Also, in 2001, we pulled out of the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia. The ABM Treaty was a major pillar in international space law. The reason the George W. Bush Administration abrogated that treaty was to be able to fully develop space-based missile defense systems.
Toward Space Nationalism
America faces a world of severe threats with rapidly growing capabilities to threaten the United States—from space. A succession of American administrations have watched the threat grow over the last 30 years and done little to deter it. Now the threats are metastasizing. The solution, as Donald Trump has shown since 2016, is in nationalism—that is, space nationalism.
It’s time for Washington to put the interests of the American people first in space. The president cannot back down on his calls for a space force and he cannot entrust the bureaucrats in either the Pentagon or throughout the national security state to enact his will. If America cannot adequately defend itself in space, then very soon, it might just wake up and find Chinese or (less likely) Russian weapons pointing down at us from orbit.
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