On Jan. 13, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence swore in USAF General John (Jay) W. Raymond as the first commander of the U.S. Space Force, consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 that President Donald J. Trump signed into law this past Dec 20.
Following emerging realities from the founding of this the first new service since the U.S. Air Force was formed in 1947 will be profoundly important.
The Space Force results from several years of advocacy by members of Congress, and particularly from President Trump’s 2018 call for a separate Space Force — along with resistance within the Pentagon.
Bureaucratic infighting will no doubt continue as Gen. Raymond oversees the new Service formed within the United States Air Force — rather than the completely separate service that President Trump originally proposed.
This arrangement is often described as being like the Marine Corps, founded on Nov. 10, 1775 to conduct ship-to-ship fighting, provide shipboard security and discipline and assist in landing forces. Its mission has evolved over the years of course, and the Marines have reported to the Secretary of Defense though the Secretary of the Navy ever since we have had service secretaries.
Does that history suggest a planned sense of permanence for the current Space Force/Air Force arrangement?
Since I think that potential eventuality would be a disastrous mistake, I prefer to compare the situation with the Army Air Corps, which in turn grew out of the Army Signal Corps, and during World War I continued primarily as an adjunct to our ground fighting forces.
Early advocates for a completely separate service were dedicated to developing "air power" because they believed it was destined to change fundamentally the nature of warfare. Perhaps most notable was Gen. Billy Mitchell, who was reduced in rank and court-marshalled for his outspoken advocacy.
In 1924, he actually predicted the 1941 Japanese "surprise" attack on Pearl Harbor, providing 17 years of strategic warning, regrettably ignored. World War II then demonstrated beyond dispute that we needed a completely separate Air Force — just as Gen. Billy Mitchell and his followers had advocated.
After the war, President Truman posthumously promoted him to Major Gen. and restored his back pay to his heirs.
I previously recalled some of this important history while remembering the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo that demonstrated America’s resolve to fight back shortly after Pearl Harbor. As a tribute on the death of the last Doolittle Raider — Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot, USAF Colonel Richard Cole, USAF Secretary Heather Wilson named the B-2 Bombers now under development as "Raiders."
Wilson’s tribute reminds me that the B-25 flown in the Raiders' "30 seconds over Tokyo" was called the "Mitchell" after Billy Mitchell — the only USAF aircraft named after an individual. He is revered by many, including yours truly, as the "Father of the USAF."
I can’t help but believe he today would understand the need for a separate Space Force to address the nation’s needs associated with rapidly advancing space technology that will revolutionize future warfare.
Ironically, Secretary Wilson’s legacy includes conditions leading to today’s status, where what we know of the U.S. Space Force seems devoted primarily to support the other services, rather than efforts to become a preeminent fighting force to, in and from space—like the air signal corps operations originally were to the Army.
The Space Force’s primary, if not complete, force application role (if any) appears to be to protect our space-based sensors and communication systems that support our ground, sea and air military operations.
Hopefully, it will not take a modern world war to persuade the current powers that be that the Space Force should evolve as rapidly as possible into the completely separate service originally proposed by President Trump. Russia and China are wasting no time in developing their own space forces — and in some regards we are playing catch-up.
Not the least of the shortcomings that should be rectified is the revival of space-based interceptors and other means to intercept such threats from space.
Recent reports that Russia’s Avangard boost-glide system is nearing an operational status to defeat all our currently operational missile defenses should cause pause.
Current directions and funding from Congress offer no indication that a needed space-based defense capability is to be pursued.
If we had built the Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor system that President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) indicated was possible by the mid-1990s, this widely reported threat would likely have been deterred.
Must we wait for Avangard and other likely threats from Russia and China to be fully developed, deployed and used before we wake up to this rapidly emerging threat?
We need a separate space force ASAP to focus realistically on these threats!
Eric Lofgren’s Defense News article appropriately titled "Will the Space Force Control its Own Destiny?" provides little hope of an affirmative answer. He describes organizational realities threatening substantial lethargy within the Air Force, the service in which I proudly served. I fear Lofgren’s concern is justified — and urge the powers that be to rectify this situation as soon as possible.
We urgently need an appropriately developed, deployed and operated Space Force, as recently discussed in depth by Retired USAF Lieutenant General Steven Kwast at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship speech and published in The Patriot Post.
So, will we have the needed Space Force — or kick the can down the road until we confront a Pearl Harbor in space from which we may not recover?
If I had to bet on the outcome, I would not bet that we could survive and recover from such an attack.
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, Science Adviser to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and a USAF Reserve Captain. 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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