During a private dinner last week at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., I was taken to task by a Republican congressman after I pressed him on his lack of support for President Donald Trump’s proposed space force.
The congressman is a war hero. His service is unimpeachable and I maintain a deep respect for his commitment to our country. Yet his responses to my questions were flippant, painfully uninformed, and dangerously rooted in a reflexive NeverTrumpism that is unworthy of the man.
When first confronted about the space force, he insisted that it “isn’t his problem,” as he is neither a member of the House Armed Services Committee nor of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Fair enough. It’s not his specialty. But as I delved deeper into the matter with him, the Republican congressman finally snapped that he did not support “creating Starfleet” (uh, why not?) because he did not believe that “greater bureaucracy was the solution” to our space woes.
Of course, this is the kind of prepackaged nonsense that reflexive NeverTrumpism supplies. Don’t question the checklist. Low taxes and small government mantras are the only objectives. Stick it to the president when you can, and still attempt to curry public favor.
Such rote recitation of the playbook glosses over a very important fact: not all bureaucracy is bad!
I then gave a brief assessment of the strategic landscape in space, in which our critical though vulnerable satellite constellations—particularly military communications, early missile warning, and surveillance satellites in geosynchronous orbit—are susceptible to surprise disruption and attack from strategic rivals, such as China, Russia, and even Iran, and North Korea. I explained how our enemies had made incredible advances in the development and deployment of their space forces and how a succession of American administrations—Democrat and Republican, to say nothing of Congress itself—had allowed our once dominant position in space to erode.
The freshman Republican congressman was unimpressed.
He insisted that we should be aware of the dangers, but that he didn’t want to take any further action other than to give the Air Force more authority on matters related to military space policy. Such a move would have been sufficient…20 years ago—before our rivals had already created a robust array of what are known as counterspace weapons. It’s totally inadequate for the circumstances today.
The Potomac Slow Dance
As Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) has pointed out, historically, the Air Force has maneuvered funds meant for their Space Command into other programs deemed more important during times of budgetary tightening—such as during sequestration. Each time funds were moved away from military space operations into more “mission critical” areas, though, America’s satellites were left more vulnerable to attack. And every time we presented a vulnerability, American rivals, particularly the Chinese and Russians, took advantage of it, investing ever more funds into building out their counterspace weapon suites.
The concern among proponents of an independent space force is that America is bound to find itself in a situation such as that we had with the Army Air Corps of old—before we created an independent Air Force. Today, having the Air Force maintain the authority of military space operations would be insufficient to the level and the nature of threat America’s satellites face in space.
After all, operating in space is expensive and bureaucracies rarely accept reorganization of the sort that the Trump Administration has advocated since the 2016 presidential campaign. In the same way that the Army fought the creation of a separate Air Force, the Department of the Air Force has resisted calls to create an independent space force, with its own culture and substantial resources dedicated exclusively to space operations. But American operations in space are too expansive to be relegated to the proverbial backburner; American presence in space is set to expand as the private sector in space grows and interest in colonizing the solar system increases.Whatever many in the Pentagon may presently believe, space is not just an ancillary component of air.
Indeed, space is itself a warfighting domain.
Deep State’s Gonna State—Even in Deep Space!
Tragically, a group of powerful interests have aligned in Washington to prevent the creation of a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces. Those interests are roughly comprised of the usual suspects behind all of the stymying of Trump’s policies since his historic election three years ago: the permanent bipartisan fusion party.
Ironically, this same group has, in the past, supported calls for the creation of a space force. Yet, because the dreaded Donald Trump has urged the creation of such a force; because “orange man bad!” is the battle cry in Washington today, the space force is being squelched by a bipartisan “Resistance” coalition in Congress.
Unsurprisingly, the most ardent critics of the space force are the so-called elected “conservatives” who zealously guard their hallowed political faith against the unclean hands of Trump and his acolytes. The congressman that I spoke with last week insisted that his primary opposition to the calls for an independent space force resided in his faith in “small” government (whatever that means). Yet, this is the same individual who proudly recounted how he—by no means a Trumpist—convinced the president to remain in Syria, despite the president’s desire to drawdown from that quagmire last year. I guess size is relative.
For the record, since this congressman’s intervention in convincing the president to remain mindlessly engaged in the Syrian civil war, the Department of Defense has spent around $15.3 billion in Syria during FY2018. Most analysts believe that the startup costs for creating an independent space force would be a meager $2 billion.
Imagine what we could have done with the $15 billion that went to the useless Syrian campaign. So much for all of that “small government” rhetoric. Fact is, the same group of permanent bureaucrats, congressional fools, and bean counters—Progressives all—who’ve waged a rolling, administrative coup against the duly elected president of the United States have also likely managed to kill the most important national security reform of the 21st century—at a time when we are susceptible to a Pearl Harbor level event in space.
According to Defense News, the killing blow was likely struck this last week when a bipartisan group of elected representatives told the Pentagon to “come up with other alternatives to establishing a Space Force.” While Congress insists that they’re merely tweaking the Pentagon’s plans, the fact that they’ve rejected a $72 million request by the Department of Defense to build a Space Force headquarters, a critical step toward creating the force, will further delay the White House’s efforts to defend our vulnerable satellite constellations.
Blame the Deep State When We Get Hit
Every delay due to bureaucratic inertia or petty partisanship weakens the military’s ability to defend itself in space. American space policy continues toward atrophy while the military and civilian (one in the same) programs of Russia and China grow stronger and more efficient—posing hitherto unimaginable threats to our country’s essential satellite constellations, as well as to our national prestige.
When Russia deploys space stalkers—tiny, fast-moving satellites with powerful grappling claws designed to push the Army’s critical Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellites (there are 10 of them) out of orbit—before their tanks blitzkrieg into another Eastern European state (something likely to happen soon, unless the administration can negotiate the mother-of-all geopolitical deals with Moscow, yet another thing our foolish “Deep State” is preventing), blame Congress. Or, when China blinds the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation in geosynchronous orbit before they invade Taiwan, just remember that it was the petty politics of the NeverTrumpers in Washington, D.C. who made these new age surprise attacks possible.
The “Deep State” not only threatens the president with a #FakeNews story of Russia “collusion.” They are now seriously undermining American national security all in the name of “resisting” the dreaded “Orange Man” president. Sad!
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Photo Credit: Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images