According to Defense One, President Donald Trump got some good news, courtesy of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
One week after a House subcommittee rejected new funding for President Trump’s new Space Force, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted in favor of the new service branch for the U.S. military, but scaled back some of the administration’s proposal.
The Committee did place some initial limits on the new service branch.
“Initially, the new service branch would include only Air Force personnel. For now, Army and Navy space professionals would remain in their services, and the bill prohibits the Defense Department from adding additional military or civilian personnel to stand up Space Force.”
The Senate panel also altered the plan for the leadership of the Space Force from the Defense Department proposal.
“Initially, the four-star general in charge of U.S. Space Command, a new unified combatant command, would lead the Space Force. There are currently 10 combatant commands, including Strategic Command, for nuclear forces, and Special Operations Command, for elite troops from all military service branches. The top Space Command general would report to the Air Force chief of staff.”
“After one year, the positions would separate into two four-star billets: one general would lead Space Force as its chief of staff, and the other general would command U.S. Space Command. At that point, the Space Force chief would become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, alongside the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard. Committee aides said the Marine Corps commandant position also was not initially part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when that service was created.”
The Senate approval comes a week after House appropriators refused a Trump administration request to fund a Space Force staff headquarters at the Pentagon and instead approved funding to further study the establishment of a space-faring military branch.
The decision by House Democrats is a clear example of attempting to kill a proposal by “studying it to death” a common political tactic.
The two decisions not only set up a clash between the two houses of Congress but between two approaches to legislation during the age of Trump.
The Republican Senate takes seriously the national security needs of the United States and the increasing importance of space as a venue for war-fighting. The Democratic-controlled House, on the other hand, has increasingly taken the view that nothing proposed by President Trump may pass.
The case for establishing a United States Space Force is not open for dispute. Increasingly, satellites are not only essential for war fighting but also for the American economy.
Countries such as China and Russia are developing weapons to destroy those satellites in a kind of space-based Pearl Harbor. The initial mission of the Space Force will be to protect against such an attack and to respond if necessary against an enemy’s space assets.
The combination of defense and deterrence would help to keep the peace on the high frontier.
The problem of space defense will only grow as time goes on. The American economy is going to expand farther into space, creating new industries such as lunar and asteroid mining and space-based manufacturing, which will need defending against enemy action in the event of war.
The United States Air Force currently conducts military space operations, primarily operating reconnaissance and Defense Department communications satellites. However, the main mission of the Air Force is to fight in and from the Earth’s atmosphere.
Space is an entirely different environment the presents unique challenges. A separate Space Force would be able to focus on operating in an environment that contains vacuum, radiation, extremes of heat and cold, and orbital mechanics.
The military faced a similar problem soon after World War II when the creation of a separate Air Force had been proposed.
The Second World War featured a United States Army Air Force that performed combat missions well. But military policy planners recognized that the United States needed a separate Air Force, allowing the Army to concentrate on fighting on and from the ground.
How the politics of establishing a Space Force will play out is uncertain.
When Senate bills that support the standing up of a Space Force and House bills that do not are ironed out in conference committees, it is hoped that cooler heads will prevail, and certain House members will set aside their hatred of the president long enough to see to the national security needs of the United States.