How quickly the Space Force develops will depend in part on the outcome of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which in the short term at least is focused on parallel proposals to create a “space corps” in the House or a “space command” in the Senate under the supervision of the Air Force, which may or may not be a stepping stone towards a full-fledged Space Force.
As members of the Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force, we have strongly urged that a Space Force not be created, because it is likely to increase bureaucratic waste, encourage the development of costly and unworkable high-tech weapons systems, and to focus attention on the further militarization of space rather than how best to cooperatively manage the risks to America’s civilian and military space assets. It is also likely to be costly—recent reporting by Bloomberg indicates even the limited Space Development Agency would cost nearly $11 billion over the next 5 years.
We’re far from the only ones worried this will turn into another bureaucratic nightmare. The House Defense Appropriations subcommittee expressed concerns about the “many unanswered questions” left by the Department’s proposal. The subcommittee noted that “It is fully within the Department’s current authority to make space a higher priority without creating a new military service,” that would create “additional overhead cost and disruption.”
How did the Space Force rise to its current place on the policy agenda in the first place? There are two answers to that question, one political and one bureaucratic.
On the one hand, President Trump has embraced a proposal that he sees as offering a sweeping military initiative that he can point to, one that will fulfil his fascination with space vehicles while simultaneously exciting his political base. The latter was evident at a series of political rallies that occurred in the wake of the President’s introduction of the Space Force concept, when chants of “Space Force, Space Force,” rippled through the crowds. Trump’s support for the Space Force concept gave a boost to an initiative that members of Congress like Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, and Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, had been promoting for several years.