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We Can't Afford to Wait: It's Prime Time for Space Force

us air force secretary heather wilson testifies before congress on space force
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington , Thursday, April 11, 2019, on the proposed Space Force. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

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Thursday, 23 May 2019 10:12 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Key congressional committees are reluctantly considering President Trump’s Space Force initiative.

Given the bureaucratic reluctance to establish immediately a separate and equal military service, the Pentagon is establishing a unified U.S. Space Command (at Congress’s previous direction) and associated offices within the Air Force — ultimately to morph into a separate Space Force.

But, even limited innovative steps by the Office of the Secretary of Defense have been met with opposition. Opponents have argued that everything is covered by existing Air Force programs, so this separate service would be redundant.

In particular, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson reportedly opposes the new Space Development Agency and its well justified efforts to adapt technologies from the private sector to provide new, less expensive space systems for important defense applications — not being delivered by current Air Force programs.

Moreover, her overall position has, from the start, been contrary to positions of an open letter from 43 previous senior Defense Officials who expressed "strong support" for the Pentagon’s now approved plan to achieve a separate and equal U.S. Space Force.

This bipartisan group, with impressive policy and technical qualifications, argued that America "has established its preeminent position in space activities, contributing to the nation’s political prestige, international influence, scientific knowledge, technological advancement, homeland security, and national defense" — and "to America’s economic prosperity."

I was privileged to join this group that emphasized practically every aspect of our daily lives depends on space. Thus, "U.S. National Security Strategy has for decades stated that freedom of access to and use of outer space is a vital national interest."

But we also assessed that foreign powers seek to undermine U.S. leadership in space and that "America’s long-standing strategic advantage in space is eroding."

In particular, "China and Russia are developing, testing, and fielding space and counterspace weapon systems that threaten our ability to use space for national security and economic purposes, jeopardize U.S. and allied military forces, and put the U.S. homeland at risk."

While I believe a separate Space Force is justifiable, even now, I joined this bipartisan group in arguing that, in spite of that perspective that has recurred for decades, the "establishment of the U.S. Space Force as an independent armed service within the Department of the Air Force is a fiscally responsible approach to address the issue."

This U.S. Space Force will organize, train, and equip forces to enable U.S. Space Command’s plans and operations, including to support other combatant commands and military services.

The new U.S. Space Force is to "develop military space culture and ethos; recruit, train, educate, promote, and retain scientists, engineers, and warriors with world-class space skills and talent; advocate for space requirements and resources; develop space doctrine and operational art; develop, field, and deliver advanced space capabilities; and steward resources to sustain America’s strategic advantage and preeminence in national security space activities."

We argued that "a new military service for space is necessary for putting America on a path to effectively deter conflict from beginning in or extending into space, and, if deterrence fails, to defeat hostile actions and protect our economic and national security interests in space."

And we endorsed testimony by USAF General John Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, that "We’re going to have a Space Force someday. I think what the Committee has to decide is when is that going to happen, and I think now is the time . . . you want to get ahead of the problem, not trail it, not come in response to a catastrophe. Get ahead of the problem."

And we applauded testimony by USMC General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that, "My best military advice, given the importance of space and the consequences of not doing all we can to optimize the Department to move forward in space, would be to move out now with what might be the 80% solution, refine as we go, and the Committee will have an opportunity to provide oversight to address some of the issues that have been raised."

Therefore, we strongly encouraged action to establish the U.S. Space Force, to realize the full potential of space power and space capabilities in order to protect and advance U.S. vital national interests.

We should do this as soon as possible. 

I hope our perspective provides an effective counter to Secretary Wilson’s position on these matters, and that congress moves with dispatch to approve the Pentagon’s plan for a U.S. Space Force. And that we move with dispatch toward a truly separate Space Force, independent from, but supportive of the other services.

As previously argued, hostile application of today’s technology already in the hands of our enemies does not permit the decades of lethargy that eventually was replaced by an independent U.S. Air Force. One emerging from the Army Air Corps after World War II— proving to even the dumbest the importance of Air Power.

We don’t have such a luxury of time today, and should move rapidly toward a truly effective military Space Force that secures America’s future space power leadership.

Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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We don’t have the luxury of time today, and should move rapidly toward a truly effective military Space Force that secures America’s future space power leadership.
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2019-12-23
Thursday, 23 May 2019 10:12 AM
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