(CNSNews.com) -- On Tuesday, Feb. 19, President Donald Trump issued an order directing the Department of Defense to draft legislation for the creation of the Space Force.
At the signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Trump declared, “America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests. Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that.”
In the directive, the president called upon the Pentagon to “take actions under existing authority to marshal its space resources to deter and counter threats in space, and to develop a legislative proposal to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces within the Department of the Air Force.”
The purpose of the Space Force, as Trump described it, will be to “organize, equip, and train the next generation of warriors to deter aggression and defend the nation, our allies, and American interests against hostile actions in the form of space and taking place in space.”
Trump’s directive did not indicate how much funding the Space Force will receive. However, recent reports suggest that the Pentagon will ask Congress for a budget of $270 million in 2020. That figure is substantially lower than earlier estimates of $3.3 billion for the Space Force’s first year cost.
Before the Space Force can fully become a reality, it must first receive congressional approval. The Trump administration is optimistic about its ability to garner to support for the proposal on Capitol Hill.
“I think there’s a lot of commonality on both sides of the aisle. And I am hoping that this is not a very heavy lift for everyone. It is an issue that has been around for a long while,” a senior administration official stated on Tuesday, as reported in Space News.
Harvey M. Sapolsky, professor of Public Policy and Organization at MIT and former director of the MIT Security Studies Program, told CNS News that space is a potential conflict zone due to its importance for national security.
“We use [space] heavily for military communications, surveillance, navigation, and early warning, and because we do, our space assets are likely to be attacked in a major war and therefore need to be defended,” he said.
Some analysts fear that Trump’s Space Force initiative could spark new military competition.
In a widely cited statement, Laura Grego, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists Global Security Program, warned, “If concentrating authority in a space force creates an incentive for nations to build space weapons that increase the likelihood of conflict, it would be a profoundly bad idea.
Trump initially wanted to establish the Space Force as an independent branch of the armed forces that would be “separate, but equal” to the Air Force. However, Pentagon officials convinced him to make the Space Force an armed service under the Air Force, an arrangement similar to the Marine Corps’ status within the Navy.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a leading proponent of keeping the Space Force under the Air Force, has argued that such an approach is more cost-efficient.
According to Eugene Gholz, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame who has done extensive research on national security policy and military technology, there are legitimate arguments for and against making the Space Force an independent entity.
“In general, the reason to create a new independent organization to deal with a particular national security issue is to prevent that issue from falling through the cracks because existing organizations do not pay it enough attention or have other priorities,” Gholz told CNS News in an email.
“In the space case, I don’t see much evidence that the Air Force, Navy, and Army neglect space,” he added.
However, Gholz also noted that a Space Force separate from the Air Force could promote more vigorous debates within the armed services. “Organizational competition — and having advocates for varied strategic approaches — is generally a good thing,” he contended.