Space Force launches; Trump happy

Antelope Valley Press - - Front Page - By ROBERT BURNS AP Na­tional Se­cu­rity Writer

WASH­ING­TON — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is cel­e­brat­ing the launch of Space Force, the first new mil­i­tary ser­vice in more than 70 years.

In sign­ing the 2020 Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act that in­cludes Space Force, Trump on Fri­day can claim a vic­tory for one of his top na­tional se­cu­rity pri­or­i­ties just two days af­ter be­ing im­peached by the House.

It is part of a $1.4 tril­lion gov­ern­ment spend­ing pack­age — in­clud­ing the Pen­tagon’s bud­get — that pro­vides a steady stream of fi­nanc­ing for Trump’s U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der fence and re­verses un­pop­u­lar and un­work­able au­to­matic spend­ing cuts to de­fense and do­mes­tic pro­grams.

Space Force has been a re­li­able ap­plause line at Trump’s po­lit­i­cal ral­lies, but for the mil­i­tary it’s seen more soberly as an af­fir­ma­tion of the need to more ef­fec­tively or­ga­nize for the de­fense of U.S. in­ter­ests in space — es­pe­cially satel­lites used for nav­i­ga­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Space Force is not de­signed or in­tended to put com­bat troops in space.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper told re­porters on Fri­day: “Our re­liance on space-based ca­pa­bil­i­ties has grown dra­mat­i­cally, and to­day outer space has evolved into a warfight­ing do­main of its own.” Main­tain­ing dom­i­nance in space, he said, will now be Space Force’s mis­sion.

Space has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to the U.S. econ­omy and to ev­ery­day life. The Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem, for ex­am­ple, pro­vides nav­i­ga­tion ser­vices to the mil­i­tary as well as civil­ians. Its con­stel­la­tion of about two dozen or­bit­ing satel­lites is op­er­ated by the 50th Space Wing from an op­er­a­tions cen­ter at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

In a re­port last Fe­bru­ary, the Pen­tagon as­serted that China and Rus­sia have em­barked on ma­jor ef­forts to de­velop tech­nolo­gies that could al­low them to dis­rupt or de­stroy Amer­i­can and al­lied satel­lites in a cri­sis or con­flict.

“The United States faces se­ri­ous and grow­ing chal­lenges to its free­dom to op­er­ate in space,” the re­port said.

When he pub­licly di­rected the Pen­tagon in June 2018 to be­gin work­ing to­ward a Space Force, Trump spoke of the mil­i­tary space mis­sion as part of a broader vi­sion.

“My ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­claim­ing Amer­ica’s her­itage as the world’s great­est space-far­ing na­tion,” he said. “When it comes to de­fend­ing Amer­ica, it is not enough to merely have an Amer­i­can pres­ence in space. We must have Amer­i­can dom­i­nance in space.”

Trump got his Space Force, which many Democrats op­posed. But it is not in the “sep­a­rate but equal” de­sign he wanted.

In­stead of be­ing its own mil­i­tary de­part­ment, like the Navy, Army and Air Force, the Space Force will be ad­min­is­tered by the Sec­re­tary of the Air Force. The law re­quires that the four-star gen­eral who will lead Space Force, with the ti­tle of Chief of Space Op­er­a­tions, will be a mem­ber of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but not in Space Force’s first year. That leader is likely to be Air Force Gen. John W. Ray­mond, the com­man­der of U.S. Space Com­mand.

Space Force is the first new mil­i­tary ser­vice since the Air Force was spun off from the Army in 1947. Space Force will be the provider of forces to U.S. Space Com­mand, a sep­a­rate or­ga­ni­za­tion estab­lished ear­lier this year as the over­seer of the mil­i­tary’s space op­er­a­tions.

The di­vi­sion of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and as­sets be­tween Space Force and Space Com­mand has not been fully worked out.

Space Force will be tiny, com­pared to its sis­ter ser­vices. It will ini­tially have about 200 peo­ple and a first-year bud­get of $40 mil­lion. The mil­i­tary’s largest ser­vice, the Army, has about 480,000 ac­tive-duty soldiers and a bud­get of about $181 bil­lion. The Pen­tagon spends about $14 bil­lion a year on space op­er­a­tions, most of which is in the Air Force bud­get.

Kait­lyn John­son, a space pol­icy ex­pert at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, sees the cre­ation of Space Force as an im­por­tant move but doubts it will prove as mo­men­tous as Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials sug­gest. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence has touted Space Force as “the next great chap­ter in the his­tory of our armed forces.” And Esper ear­lier this week called this an “epic mo­ment” in re­cent Amer­i­can mil­i­tary his­tory.


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