In early 2018 President Trump in a speech announced to the world his intentions on supporting the creation of a Space Force. While many of us shrugged it off as a joke or a lie (depending on your view of the president) he was dead serious on capitalizing on the work that had been done in the years prior. Discussions on the establishment of a space force have been going on for decades in small circles and behind closed doors, but by 2020 a space force will be the 6th operational branch of the US Military. In this episode of Lessons from the Screen we will be looking at the United States Space Force.
The government hasn’t given birth to a new military branch since the surgery that separated the Air Force from the Army in 1947. While we know that the government loves it’s military (specifically its technology and active soldiers because the government could care less about veterans), it started to feel like the government felt like it’s military family was complete. The Coast Guard, the Navy, the Marines, and the Army were all created in the late 1700s. The National Guard was created in 1636 and as mentioned earlier the Air Force was carved out in 1947 even though the Army and the Navy still have planes and pilots of their own. With all that, Air, Land, Sea, and Borders seemed secure with no need for additional members to the family. But for the last few decades, the US government has been dealing with Baby Fever and if you combine that with the fact that if the US was a person it’d be a hypochondriac and you get a new branch of the military. Besides, everyone wants someone new to spend money on when the old people stop appreciating it.
Ever forward thinking, what happens when the threats exist above the air? This was one of many questions being asked in the 1930s and 40s. The government always attempts to solve a problem and so it was decided that screaming “oh shit we’re all gonna die” wasn’t the proper American response to such a scenario. So in 1945 within the Army Air Forces, space development began in the United States. When the Air Force split from the Army 2 years later it took most of the Space Development missions with it and in 1962 became the sole branch for space development in America. Even during my time in the Air Force I heard people refer to the branch as the Air and Space Force. Although at the time I never really thought about it in any meaningful way except to think about how weird the word “space” was both in use and in definitions. In 1982 the Air Force Space Command was created to merge all the different space assets in the Air Force under one banner. This was specific to the Air Force as the Navy and the Army kept their space assets to themselves.
In 1985 the United States Space Command or USSPACECOM was created to coordinate outer space missions by the Armed Forces. The commander of Space Command was also the commander of US-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (which was a binational endeavor by the US and Canada) and was often times was the commander of Air Force Space Command. All of the various space commands had missions that centered around protection, defense, or support of national security through space assets and/or control of space domain. The USSPACECOM was intended to have command of all of the space assets of all the other branches. After the September 11th attacks, USSPACECOM was restructured and placed under another joint command banner and emphasis shifted away from space assets in favor of national defense cell fighting.
Around 2015 major talks about space asset organization would begin to gain steam again and in 2017 democrats and republicans would both have representatives co-sponsoring bills and giving lectures on the necessity of an independent space command. These arguments according to some historians fall along the same lines as the arguments presented when the Air Force was seeking to gain independence status. The strongest arguments being that having Space Command under the Air Force as it currently is means that Space Assets are not being fully or properly utilized and that the overall mission to control the domain of space is not being achieved. These arguments make the case that in order for us to properly assert control over space, space command needs the autonomy and resources to make its own decisions without being concerned about other larger missions or circumstances that might take away from space.
By June of 2018 Trump was announcing and directing the Department of Defense to establish a Space Force which evoke images of galactic fleets, Star Wars scenes, and Star Trek diplomacy. I might have those mixed up but I wanted to mention Star Wars and Star Trek so I did. In any case it wasn’t well received by many as it came from a highly polarizing president, also because many people pointed out that space operations already existed under the Air Force which is similar to how the conversation went when the Air Force was separated from the Army.
In February 2019 Space Policy Directive-4 was issued officially creating the US Space Force which puts us on board with Russia who established a space force in 1992 and was the first country to create an independent space force, and China which created an independent space force in 2015. Earlier in December of this year, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act which directed $738 billion to the defense spending and relabeled Air Force Space Command as the US Space Force.
It is estimated that about 15,000 people will be transferred mostly from the Air Force to Space Command and that it could cost as much as $12 billion dollars over the next 5 years or so. The Air Force will retain most of the training and infrastructure responsibilities as well as support roles for the space mission. This and a number of other things were done in an effort to reduce bureaucracy, inefficiencies, and stress in leadership. All of these posed severe problems when the Air Force separated from the Army, something that many still believe caused more problems than it solved.
The Space Command according to Directive 4 will have 6 priorities:
(1) Protecting the Nation’s interests in space and the peaceful use of space for all responsible actors, consistent with applicable law, including international law;
(2) Ensuring unfettered use of space for United States national security purposes, the United States economy, and United States persons, partners, and allies;
(3) Deterring aggression and defending the Nation,
United States allies, and United States interests from hostile acts in and from space;
(4) Ensuring that needed space capabilities are integrated and available to all United States Combatant Commands;
(5) Projecting military power in, from, and to space in support of our Nation’s interests; and
(6) Developing, maintaining, and improving a community of professionals focused on the national security demands of the space domain.
The Scope of the Space Command does not include NASA, NOAA, or other non-military organizations and like other branches, will have a civilian component.
While right now it can be worded as a huge achievement for Trump. On its surface, it's really just a re-branding of something that was already in place at the moment with plans to grow it into something more significant. But what do you think of the Space Force? What do you think this means for US Citizens and Black People specifically? Tune in the hear my thoughts.
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