President Donald Trump revives the policy debate over creating military Space Force

Donald Trump at Miramar
President Donald Trump addresses a military audience at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California. (White House via Facebook)

President Donald Trump today talked about creating a U.S. Space Force, breathing new life into a concept that’s been proposed by lawmakers but opposed by Pentagon leaders.

The subject of space policy came up during the president’s visit to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, while he was addressing a crowd of Marines. His comments had an off-the-cuff tone, and made it sound as if creating a military service focused on defending the space frontier was his idea:

“We are finally going to lead again — you see what’s happening, you see the rockets going up left and right, you haven’t seen that for a long time. Very soon we’re going to Mars. You wouldn’t have been going to Mars if my opponent won, that I can tell you. You wouldn’t even be thinking about it.

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea. We may even have a Space Force — develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day, because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space, I said, ‘Maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the Space Force.’ And I was not really serious. And then I said, ‘What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.’ That could happen.”

Trump said “that could be the breaking story” from his Miramar stopover. Then he pointed to journalists covering the talk.

“Look at all those people there. … Ahhh, fake news.” Trump told the Marines.

Actually, the idea of creating a U.S. Space Force has been under consideration for a long time.

Last year, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., proposed setting up the Space Corps as a separate military branch alongside the Air Force, but under the purview of the Air Force secretary. That’s analogous to the Marine Corps, which is housed within the Department of the Navy.

Rogers, who’s chairman of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, wanted to have the proposal included in budget legislation. But it was opposed by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who argued it would just make inter-service military coordination harder.

“The Pentagon is complicated enough,” Wilson said last June. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. And if I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”

The proposal ended up being left out of the legislation last November.

Since then, space security has emerged as one of the top concerns for the National Space Council, headed by Vice President Mike Pence.

Briefed @POTUS & @Cabinet on National Space Council. This Administration is LEADING IN SPACE by bringing together private sector & federal gov’t – huge advances! We’ll continue to strengthen national security & unleash innovation, which creates high-paying JOBS in America. #space

— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 8, 2018

White House officials voiced concern during the council’s meeting last month that within a few years, Russia and China could have the capability to cripple U.S. space assets using radio jamming, laser strikes or other anti-satellite weapons.

“Space has now joined land, sea and air as a warfighting domain,” White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said at the time. “While we prefer that conflict not extend to space, the United States will be prepared if it does.”

Pence provided Trump and the full Cabinet with a recap of the National Space Council’s work last week, and that’s what most likely sparked the president’s musings today.

Will the idea get more traction this time around? Or will it merely provide more grist for Twitter memes? That depends on whom you follow:

NEW video of the policy development process for Trump’s #SpaceForce –>

— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) March 13, 2018

enlisting for the space force

— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) March 13, 2018

Seems logical. We have to patrol the wall protecting us from the “dark side” of the moon. #SpaceForce #BuildTheWall

— C. M. Burns, III (@CMontyBurnsIII) March 13, 2018

Everyone’s making fun of #SpaceForce comment. If you think that’s funny, then you’re the joke. And I’d suggest reading Reagan’s diary. They’ve been at that for quite some time already.

— Richard Baris (@Peoples_Pundit) March 13, 2018

LOVE the idea of a #SpaceForce. LOVE this @POTUS

— Oodles🐾Mom (@MotherofOodles) March 13, 2018