Do We Really Need A Space Force?

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Hint: No. We Don’t, and Here’s Why.

I could go on here about hippie-dippie reasons like the fact that we should be de-escalating global weaponization. So, too, could I go on about how weaponizing space sets a dangerous precedent. Still another thing I could bring up is that space militarization is potentially just as devastating as nuclear war. I’m not going to be discussing any of those reasons here, though. No. Instead, we’re going to talk about the fact that we don’t need a Space Force because we already have one!

Yes. We already have a Space Force…

…in fact, we’ve had a Space Force since the end of World War II. No, not NASA – the civilian agency is not subject to the Department of Defense. Instead, I’m referring to our youngest branch of the military (and my personal favorite) the United States Air Force. Guess what, folks? The Air Force has been overseeing all military space operations since we first decided to get involved in the space race.  

Fun fact: About 70% of current orbiting satellites are operated by the U.S. Air Force.  

My Authority on the Subject:

I raised my hand and signed on the dotted line to join the Washington Air National Guard fifteen days after 9/11, but I had to wait a few months to ship out. Then, in February of 2002, I packed my bags with the list of Air-Force-approved items and boarded an airplane bound for San Antonio – home of Lackland Air Force Base, and all of the Basic Military Training operations for the U.S. Air Force.

A picture of yours truly while in SATCOM School at Ft. Gordon, GA in 2002.

Yours truly while in SATCOM School at Ft. Gordon, GA in 2002.

FYI: The Air National Guard is different from the Air Force Reserve. The Reserve is fully federal, meaning they follow the U.S.A.F. chain of command right up through the federal Commander in Chief, Zaphod Beeblebrox, a guy who doesn’t know we already have a Space Force, which, of course, is what all the fuss is about. 

You can read more about the National Guard’s mission here.

From February until April, every morning was the same routine.  Just before 5:00 am, I’d hear the intercom crackle  “Dorm Guard, get em up!” the CQ officer’s voice boomed. Immediately, I’d be out of my bunk, and busting ass to don my uniform and shave before morning formation.  We’d bound down the stairs (Sense of urgency at all times, maggots!) and form up on the concrete in front of our dorm before the first notes of that terrible, terrible bugle call were played.

Welcome to the Space Force. 

Once we were formed up, the M.T.I. gave us our morning briefing, then at the end, she or he gave us the following order: “Now, on the count of three, you will sing the Air Force Song – loudly, proudly, and together!”  Then she counted down, and we started singing as ordered:

“Off we go,
into the wild blue yonder
flying high, into the sun…

…We live in fame
Or go down in flames
Hey! Nothing Can stop the U.S. Air Force!”

The M.T.I. or flight leader would then shout the words, “AIR POWER!” to which we were ordered to respond with a louder cry of “SPACE POWER! A.E.F!” (AeroSPACE Expeditionary Force)

Drilling It In

We sang that song and gave that chant every morning, without fail.  In fact, not only was it customary during morning reveille, it was customary all the time.  Any time someone shouted the words “AIR POWER!” at a briefing, in a formation, or even after a triumphant moment, we were trained to respond by shouting back “SPACE POWER! A.E.F!”  

They were training us to understand that the U.S. Air Force’s mission is not just in Earth’s atmosphere, but in orbit and beyond as well.

To put an exclamation point on it, when I graduated basic training, the Colonel who gave our commencement speech spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the Air Force’s space mission. In fact, I don’t remember anything else that he talked about, but I do remember him specifically spending time on making sure that we all knew that space was the future of the Air Force. As a brand-new Airman going into Satellite Communications, I was very excited about that.  

I spent the next six years of my life learning about just how correct that Colonel was and still is.

So What Does the Air Space Force Do in Space? 

First, let’s talk about the current state of the “Space Theater.”

When I say “space theater,” I’m not talking about the secret bunker from which I research my B-Movie Breakdown features. No; I mean low-earth orbit. That’s the territory where the ISS, satellites, and tons of space junk spend their time just going round and round the Earth. I also mean higher orbits, too, where the geosynchronous space buffalo roam.  

In other words, the space theater is the place where space battles are being fought and will be fought in the future.

Doctored image of a Klingon Bird of Prey, a Battlestar, and a TIE fighter.

An unlikely scenario…

This is important to clear up right away because the phrase “Space Force” conjures up images of Tie-Fighters, Klingon Birds of Prey and even Battlestars duking it out in orbit (Yeah, I just mixed three sci-fi references, what of it?).  This is not what the space battlefield looks like.  Not yet at least.

Right Now the Theater Is In Its Infancy. 

I reported a few weeks ago that India launched its first anti-satellite missile, something of a milestone in the history of weaponizing space. India now has the capability to target Pakistani or other regional satellites and blow them out of space from Earth if they determine them to be a threat to national security. 

So here’s a scenario involving India and Pakistan. 

India’s anti-satellite missiles blow out Pakistani communication satellites because of some idiotic incident, and Pakistan loses most of its communication infrastructure. The attack cripples all cell phones, the internet, GPS, and critical infrastructure services within Pakistan. In order to retaliate in a “measured” way, Pakistan would have to detonate a nuclear warhead in the atmosphere above India to create an EMP.  You can imagine the escalation from there.

That’s What the Air Force Is Protecting Currently.

With the USAF controlling 70% of the satellites out there, we have a lot of interests to protect in space. In an earlier article, I detailed Elon Musk’s plan to put 12,000 communications satellites in orbit around the globe, creating the future of the internet. That’s what needs to be protected. Nearly everything we rely on in 21st-century society is dependent on satellites. 

GPS does everything from guiding you to your destination to tracking your car or phone if either is stolen. That’s all the satellites.

Last time you went to the doctor, she probably downloaded your chart from a central cloud-based file system. Then she electronically delivered your prescriptions to your pharmacy. None of that is possible without satellites.  

Traffic lights, the power grid, automated security systems, sewer and water services – all of those necessities of modern life are dependent on communications satellites. And the Air Force has been protecting them since we put them there.  

So What Does He Mean, “Space Force?”

Who the hell knows? Honestly. President Trump probably made the term up off the cuff while talking to an underling. Meanwhile, the V.P. and the Chief of the Staff were going, “Yeah, let’s let him chase his tail around on that for a while while we can do the real work…”  If you think I’m being unfair, watch the video of the announcement and tell me it’s not Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Some Issues:

Several things about that video bother me, so let’s briefly address those. As a writer, language is important to me. The first phrase that concerned me was “tame new frontiers” Just like Jackson with the Native Americans before him, President Beeblebrox wants to make sure that all of those pesky savage extra-terrestrials are tamed and civilized?

Second, when talking about the relationship between the Air Force and this fantasy Space Force, he used the phrase “separate but equal.” That was the exact language used in the supreme court case Plessy vs. Ferguson, which became the cornerstone doctrine for segregation in the south until it was overturned in the 1950s.  No other President would compare the creation of a new government agency – especially an armed one – to a hot-button issue like segregation and get away with it. And how did he do it?  BY ANNOUNCING A SPACE FORCE! 

The Main Problem

Everyone in the room was so distracted by that sexy, beautiful tag line running across their front pages and title screens that they forgot all about the incredibly insensitive and idiotic phrases he used.  They also seemed to forget that he couldn’t even find General Dunsford, the one he supposedly tasked with building this new “sixth branch of the armed forces,” then, as soon as he got back on the microphone, said, “But that’s the importance that we give it.”  So important that I don’t even know where the general is.  

Lest anyone still think I’m being unfair, he also made a point to say that it wasn’t enough to merely have a U.S. presence in space, but that we must “dominate” in space.   So, apparently having 70% of the assets in orbit isn’t dominating?

Final Thoughts:

The U.S. already dominates space.  We control the majority of assets. We already won that fight – some of the early rounds were tough, but we came out on top. Our Air Force is amazing and we have capabilities in both air and space that dwarf those of any other nation on Earth. The current Commander in Chief seems to be completely clueless as to the resources he commands, so he calls for a redundant defense agency to add to our already mammoth-sized military.  

So the question, again, is, “Do we really need a Space Force?”  I know my answer.

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3 Responses

  1. Avatar DCF says:

    Everything in this was amateurish piece was wrong from the first sentence. I could draw on thirty years of experience in defense and aerospace policy to detail a dozen things, but what’s the point?

    • Avatar Brandon Humphreys says:

      Really? Everything was wrong? Even the part where I went through basic and we sang the song every morning? I didn’t do that? Please, oh please, elaborate and enlighten me. After all, if you have that much experience in “policy” for the military-industrial complex, then it seems to me you’ve got some explaining to do – like why we need to spend more money than the next seven developed countries combined on defense when we have children learning out of history textbooks that end with the beginning of the Bush administration and coming to school every day just so they can eat. But yeah, let’s pour a few hundred billion more dollars into a whole new branch of the military.

  2. Avatar Skrillex says:

    How can anyone expect a man who cheated his way out of the military (Bone spurs) to have any passion let alone knowledge for how the military works to protect this country!??

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