What is the truth behind this meme? [Space Force will Make Space Great Again]

“The Defense Department AND Pentagon have been directed to immediately begin … to establish a Space Force … separate but equal.” is this something new we really need? The question seems like a good topic for debate.

Here is the President’s announcement followed by the views of some supporters of the new Space Force. I am not entirely convinced that these suporters give the most eloquent of arguments, but we need to start the debate somewhere.

I thought of posting this in IMHO, but if the “Our Navy Seals begged for help and Obama went to bed” meme from a YouTube gold-bug merits GQ, surely such a major announcement from the man in the Oval Office merits at least GD.

The Russians have had a Space Force on and off for about 25 years.


In line with their belief “if it’s not a separate service, it’s crap”.

See here:

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=857054

The idea of a Space Force is thoroughly redonkulous. In terms of uniformed personnel, it would be closer in side to the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps than it would be to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Further, the vast majority of people have no damned idea what Space Force would be about. There are relatively small numbers of uniformed personnel who sit, mostly in Colorado, and make sure our defense satellites (GPS, comms, etc) are working properly and don’t crash into other satellites. There’s a lot more uniformed personnel who work the bureaucratic angle of overseeing the contractors who build the satellites. That’s the vast majority of what the Space Force would do.

Creating a military branch with responsibilities that are overwhelmingly paper-pushing, and for which the operational side amounts to mostly a highly complex and highly trained version of a movie theater projectionist, is absurd.

Like everything that trump does, it’s just one more publicity show–more cheap theatrics–for his base. The video may show the more gullible examples, but it serves as a good illustration of how Trump continues to hold onto a certain core of support. He puts on a dog-and-pony show, and they lap it up. This is the very essence of Trump, and I’ve been pointing this out for two years. Is there really a debate here?

In fairness, there’s scores of millions of people who have been pointing it out for years, and they haven’t made much progress either. Don’t feel alone.

Just for the record, here is the whole quote:

Yes, he actually said that. I would say that it’s not taken out of context, which it isn’t, except that there is no context that even makes sense. Separate but equal? WTF does that even mean here? It’s like he goes out of his way to be racist even when it doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, I guess if we want there to be no mistake about us being the Evil Empire, this makes total sense. When does construction of the Death Star begin?

You are correct, Ravenman, and I’ve noticed that your observations are particularly on-the-mark. I only mean to say that we won’t get very far by debating Trump’s smoke screens and flim flams as though they were legitimate issues, (nor by declaiming his personal character), instead of just confronting and exposing his corruption and deception straight on. (Not to impugn upon septimus’ circumspection and decorum.)

The “separate but equal” line is Trump just repeating something he half remembers from a history class sixty years ago in a complete lack of context believing that it adds weight and nobility to his stupid ideas. That it is both nonsensical and harkens back to school segregation is either completely lost on him, or something that Steven Miller snuck into his speech deck to dog whistle to the white nationalists who think this is a cover for some kind of “Zap the Darkies” weapon system.

As for the idea itself, the United States already as a “Space Force” in the United States Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) which is a major command under the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). There could be an argument made for moving AFSPC from under USSTRATCOM and into a UCC directly within the DOD, since it actually was until 2002 where it was downgraded to a majcom for reasons that have to do more with bureaucracy than practicality. AFSPC is responsible for the ULA rocket missions which orbit all national security payloads, most NOAA and many NASA satellites, and most NASA interplanetary missions as well as maintaining orbital space awareness and tracking space hazards such as debris, charged particle belts, and solar weather events.

AFSPC is already doing a fine job of managing space operations to the point of being a resource for many other allied and neutral nations, and while there has long been discussion about creating a “Space Force”, mostly by people disappointed that the Air Force found a crewed space program to be of little practical value with advances in satellite surveillance technology and cancelled the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and the X-20 “Dyna-Soar”, and only very reluctantly and expensively participated in the Space Transportation System (“Shuttle”) before the Challenger failure made it clear that it required alternative access to space.

Making a separate military service of it makes sense only in the anticipation of performing direct action operations from or in orbital space which is something we should actively avoid given the potential for making orbital space uninhabitable due to battle debris and destroying critical communication and surveillance infrastructure that can only operate in orbital space. It might have made sense back when the Reagan Strategic Defense Inititive (SDI) was being promoted as a viable reality with space-based weapon system, but that has totally failed to come to pass. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) controls the ground-based elements of our National Missile Defense system (really, just the Ground-Based Mid-Course Defense System and the Sea-Based X-Band Radar) along with what was SBIRS-Low (now the Satellite Tracking and Surveillance System), and AFSPC has overseen the Defense Satellite Program early warning satellites and SBIRS-High. So, for all intents and purposes, MDA is the “space force” as pertains to strategic ballistic missile defense, and AFSPC is the battlespace manager for in-space operations. Making yet another seperate bureaucracy or cleaving off AFSPC into a new top level command under the Department of Defense doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as it will just cost more money and result in even more internecine infighting for budget and priority.

I believe Dick ‘Darth Panda’ Cheney already began construction of the appropriately named “Shoot Him In The Face” station balanced at the L-2 libration point on the far side of the Moon, which is the real reason the Constellation program was cancelled and the James Webb Space Telescope has been continuously delayed. Trump, of course, knows nothing of this because if he learned of it he would immediately start blabbing it to all and sundry. He just likes space in the same way he likes playing coal miner and truck driver.

Stranger

Does anyone have any sources as to how the Russians Space Force worked? Precious few detailed sources in English. Of course, in that case, it might be better to give them control of the ICBMs as the Russians do, at which point you might as well say “fuck it” and declare StratCom a separate service.

Yeah, it’s my understanding that satellite launches these days are already much more complicated that they need to be on account of all the trash we’ve put in orbit and is still spinning away - from old satellites to bits and bobs that fell off rockets or were chipped away from spacecraft by micrometeorites etc… ; all of which is zooming at very high speed up there for the foreseeable future because much like the plastic island floating in the middle of the Pacific, fuck if we’re going to be arsed cleaning that up 'cause there ain’t no profit margin there.
Beyond that, there’s also the sort of gentleman’s agreement reached during the Cold War - we don’t put weapons in space because if we do then they have both an excuse and a rationale to put weapons in space and nobody wants that. See : nukes.

Which of course both sides sort of edged through (I’m pretty sure some Russian cosmonauts brought guns up there with them ; and some Russian sats are also believed to be capable of destroying target satellites either via small arms fire or just ramming into them ; and the US probably does the same) but that’s just small fry. If the US started making noise about putting up a Rods From Heaven type device up there ; or even just some type of military orbital station to drop-pod people or materiel anywhere on Earth at the drop of a hat all hell would break loose.
Same deal about putting shit up on the Moon.

Yes, yes and more yes. It would absolutely make sense if it were in response to China or Russia setting up military capability in orbit, but to the first to so is an invitation to those two, and others, to do the same. In fact, it would be crazy for other countries to refrain from countermeasures. The US might think of itself as always a force for good, but we have a pretty bad track record. WWII was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

The Soviet and later Russian Federation forces were structured somewhat differently from the US military. For one, the entire Soviet space program, crewed and uncrewed, was under the aegis of the Soviet military command; they never had anything like NASA, a civilian agency charged with non-military space exploration and a clearinghouse for the development of space technologies. The actual elements of the Soviet space program were divided up against competing design bureaus, and while this might superficially seem analogous to the American aerospace contractors that supported both the US Air Force and NASA programs, in reality these bureaus were highly politicized, often using backchannel influence to divert resources and sabotage competing programs in ways that even the highly competitive commercial entities of the American military-industrial complex could not do.

Assigning control of land-based ICBMs to the Air Force was a somewhat arbitrary decision—the US Army insisted that it should be in charge of weapon systems located on American soil, just as it was for IRBMs based in Europe—and resulted in the Air Force being responsible for two legs of the nuclear “triad” which some wonks insisted was unfair, but in reality it made a lot of sense as the Air Force was intended from the beginning to be a more strategically-focused entity. There is no particular reason that we couldn’t have a separate branch to support just the ICBM force analogous to the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces as, aside from a few attempts to develop an air-launched ICBM-class weapon, there is little overlap between the Air Force’s logistics and strategic bombing primary missions and strategic deterrence, but given the overlap at the time between the Air Force’s nascent crewed space program and the ICBMs (primarily Mercury and Titan) intended to be used by it, there was a logic for keeping everything within one organization. Later, of course, the ICBM fleet moved to more compact and responsive solid propellant delivery systems (LGM-30 A/B/F/G ‘Minuteman’, LGM-118A ‘Peacekeeper’, and the cancelled LGM-134A ‘Midgetman’ mobile missile) that were not suitable for crewed flight and Air Force Space Command essentially became an organization that was essentially indepentent of the rest of the Air Force except for falling under the same overall budget, but the precident was set.

The Soviets have long had an entirely separate organization for ballistic missile and space-based weapon defense (“Troops of Anti-Missile and Anti-Space Defence“) analogous to the Ballistic Missile Defense Office/Missile Defense Agency (BDMO/MDA) and were doing work on both anti-ballistic missiles and directed energy weapons while individual US services were putzing around with various versions of Nike, SPRINT, Safeguard, et cetera. They also learned in these early attempts how difficult, costly, and easy to defeat ballistic missile defense systems could be, and how expensive and indefensible space-based weapons were. When Reagan came around in 1983 preaching SDI and claiming it would make ICBMs “impotent and obsolete” they well knew how far from true that would be for defensive technology in the foreseeable future.

As for space warfare today, it is true that both Russia and especially China are developing technologies to attack space surveillance and communication assets and cripple opponents’ ability to operate in space, the AFSPC is well aware of these programs and the technologies needed for counteroperations, and this idea that they are doing “nothing” is patently false. Making a separate “space force” does pretty much fuck-all to deal with this other than creating new layers of bureaucracy and a new organization to stand up and manage, and while the US Strategic Command has its problems, particularly in acquisitions, separating out a “Space Force” branch does exactly nothing to deal to deal with that. The Soviet/Russian model, such as it is, doesn’t really provide useful guidance for improving the current American system other than as an example for how not to do things.

Stranger

They are doing so:


*Intel chiefs: China, Russia developing ‘attack satellites’ to target US ‘in a few years’ China and Russia are developing weapons that could destroy American satellites in the event of an approaching conflict, a top general warned lawmakers Tuesday.

“That is integral to their strategies,” Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Ashley and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats agreed the United States has a “significant advantage” over Chinese and Russian space capabilities. But, in the short term, both adversaries intend to neutralize that inequality with anti-satellite weaponry, which would wreak havoc on GPS systems and other satellite-based technology used by the private and military sectors.*

So, this is not Trump’s craziest idea at all.

The Joint Space Operations Command (JSpOC), which is part of the Joint Functional Component Command of USSTRATCOM, tracks satellites and space debris to try to avoid collisions. It hasn’t been a major problem yet (other than a couple of missions which are suspected to have been lost due to impact by space debris, and a handful of high speed satellite collissions, plus some anti-sat missile tests in lower LEO, but it has the potential to make entire orbital azimuths untenable or even deny access to whole orbits if the debris field grows exponentially following a massive impact event (Kessler syndrome). And it isn’t just a matter of there not being the profit margin to clean this up; we just don’t currently have any technology capable of capturing and remediating hypervelocity debris in broad orbital fields. Even the best concepts like “Cotton Candy” aerojel capture are at best a couple decades from being ready for deployment. We could easily make orbital space inaccessible and lose access to a natural resource which supports several multi-billion dollar industries and Earth surveillance capabilities not to mention space exploration in general. This is like the “land mine problem” on a global scale; once you start shitting in orbit, it becomes an indefinite hazard for everyone, combattant and noncombattant alike.

Stranger

First of all, it isn’t “Trump’s…idea”; the need for a dedicated space warfare component has long existed before Trump bankrupted his first oceanfront casino, and second, Trump displays no actual plan or detailed policy beyond the words “space force” and “separate but equal”. In other words, he’s about as informed on the topic of space warfare as he is on international trade, which is to say, at the level of a five year old.

Stranger

I don’t agree with this.

The question of whether something ought to be a separate military branch essentially comes down to the question of whether it’s a good idea to trade off the increased bureaucratic costs and the fact that one is literally creating a stovepipe with the perceived risks of not doing so.

There’s nothing inherent that I see with military space today that really improves anything with the creation of a new military service; and I just don’t see how the increasing complexity of the space domain that you mention in the quoted sentence actually impacts on that.

Let’s remember that the military services, especially after the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the 1980s, exist almost entirely to recruit people, train them for war, equip them for war, and keep them ready for war. As you’ve pointed out in great detail (hats off) the operational application of war, in any domain (land, sea, space, cyber) is a matter left to the specified combatant commands.

I don’t have a fundamental problem with establishing Space Command as a new specified command. I tend to think it is a temporary solution to the difficulty of war in this domain – we don’t have a “Sea Command” that controls all our ships, but instead we establish subunified commands within the geographic combatant commands in order to remove the seam between naval, air, and land forces in a particular area, and eventually these specified commands should control all naval, air, land, space, and cyber forces that produce effects within their sandbox.

But space getting to be a difficult or contested domain really doesn’t have anything major to do with the major missions of a military service: find good people, train them to kill (or help others kill), and make sure the weapons work and are affordable.