A historic defense legislation is now officially in the books with an addition of the sixth branch of the U.S. military, the Space Force. The 3,500-page National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) recognizes the “final frontier” of space as a warfighting domain.
To Infinity and Beyond!
The Department of Defense released a lengthy report detailing the necessities behind the new military branch. It seems futuristic to some, who cannot fathom a threat to U.S. soil from the heavens, but our government believes it to be a vulnerable access point:
“The United States harnesses the benefits of space for communications, financial networks, public safety, weather monitoring, transportation, scientific exploration, and more. The use of space has also greatly expanded the capability and capacity of the U.S. military to anticipate threats, to respond rapidly to crises, and to project power globally, at substantially less cost in lives and treasure than in the past. Because these advantages are vital to our modern way of life and modern way of war, unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space is a vital national interest.”
Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein confirms that China already employs a full set of anti-satellite weapons, which include small, refrigerator-sized co-orbitals that targets do not recognize. They have jammers that could obliterate GPS and shut down U.S. communications systems. As he praised President Trump’s push for the force, he also warned: “In every war game, we determined that if you move first in space, you’re not guaranteed to win. But if you move second, you’re likely to lose.”
For critics denying the potential threat from above and decrying the expense of what they may deem a folly of the current administration, the investment being made is a cautious one. Our U.S. Department of Defense manages a hefty budget – $738 billion established for the next fiscal year. Only a tiny slice, $72.4 million, is set aside for getting the sixth branch up and running. That amount establishes Space Command – the administrative department – and the Chief of Space Operations (CSO) position. Air Force General John Raymond is set to take the controls for the inaugural year and will report directly to the Air Force Secretary. But the man also has been granted a seat at the heavy artillery table, the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Basically, year one is all administration, training curricula, and posturing for year number two with an increased budget for admitting cadets to the program. Let’s face it, weapons of war in space will be a tad different from the norm.
The plan afoot is to add just 200 cadets with increases to possibly 15,000 total enlisted and civilian employees by the end of fiscal 2024. The plan is conservative, the task Herculean.