The Urgent Need for a United States Space Force
January 2020 • Volume 49, Number 1 • Steven L. Kwast
by Steven L. Kwast
Lieutenant General, United States Air Force (Ret.)
"In June 2018, President Trump directed the Department of Defense to “begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.” The reason for a space force is simple: space is the strategic high ground from which all future wars will be fought. If we do not master space, our nation will become indefensible.
Since that time, entrenched bureaucrats and military leaders across the Department of Defense, especially in the Air Force, have been resisting the President’s directive in every way they can. And this December, although Congress voted to approve a Space Force, it did so while placing restrictions on it—such as that the Space Force be built with existing forces—that will render it largely useless in any future conflicts.
At the heart of the problem is a disagreement about the mission of a Space Force. The Department of Defense envisions a Space Force that continues to perform the task that current space assets perform—supporting wars on the surface of the Earth. The Air Force especially is mired in an outmoded industrial-age mindset. It sees the Space Force as projecting power through air, space, and cyberspace, understood in a way that precludes space beyond our geocentric orbit.
Correspondingly, the Defense Department and Congress think that the Air Force should build the Space Force. So far, this has amounted to the Air Force planning to improve the current Satellite Command incrementally and call it a Space Force. It is not planning to accelerate the new space economy with dual-use technologies. It is not planning to protect the Moon or travel corridors in space to and from resource locations—raw materials worth trillions of dollars are available within a few days’ travel from Earth—and other strategic high grounds. It is not planning to place human beings in space to build and protect innovative solutions to the challenges posed by the physical environment. It is not developing means to rescue Americans who may get stranded or lost in space.
In short, the Air Force does not plan to build a Space Force of the kind America needs. In its lack of farsightedness, the Air Force fails to envision landmasses or cities in space to be monitored and defended. Nor does it envision Americans in space whose rights need defending—despite the fact that in the coming years, the number of Americans in space will grow exponentially...."
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