Trump's Space Force will shake up military bureaucracy for the better

Trump's Space Force will shake up military bureaucracy for the better
© NASA

Three cheers for President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE’s decision to add a Space Force to the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

In the 61 years since Sputnik, all the world’s militaries have come to depend on information from objects in earth orbit. A dozen employ instruments of communication and information there. Orbital space is ballistic missiles’ highway. Satellites offer the prospect of preclusive defense against such missiles through control of access to space, and are key to (among other things) efficient operation of ground-based missile defenses.

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The capacity to destroy objects in orbital space has been growing since 1960, when the U.S managed the first orbital rendezvous. Russia and China possess dedicated anti-satellite systems. Doubtless, any major war’s operations would involve competitive destruction of satellites. Inevitably, sooner or later, some power will bid for the comprehensive capacity to control orbital space. Better that America be first.

 

Mankind as a whole, but especially Americans, owe Trump a debt of gratitude for having directed the U.S. government to establish a force dedicated to making that happen. But why celebrate what, at this point, is just a rewiring of an organization’s chart? Because though the logic of technology has long counseled such a force, the logic of military bureaucracy has forestalled it. For human beings to realize any technology’s potential, those who really want to do it must be in a position to make it happen. That is what the establishment of the Space Force will do: endow people with the will and interest to make U.S control of space happen.

Heretofore, the national security establishment has considered what happens in orbital space, though important, as incidental to the needs of the existing military services. That bureaucratic focus has obscured the fact that orbital space is itself a major theater of operations, and that victory in it might be decisive for victory everywhere else. Imagine simply what power would accrue to any nation’s forces on the ground or at sea were they backed by a force able to decide what any other country may or may not do in and through orbital space.

Day to day, the Pentagon lives to fight what all its parts believe is a zero-sum contest for the Defense Dollar. Hence all its parts have reportedly resisted the addition of a competitor for Congress’s attention. The U.S Air Force (which stiles itself the aerospace force) has objected most ferociously because, in a corporate sense, it has the most to lose. Most of the Space Force’s initial assets would be taken from the USAF. For it, this means losing some of its best people, reduced missions, fewer opportunities for promotion, reduced capacity to award contracts, fewer post-retirement jobs for senior officers. Then, as the Space Force’s missions and capacities in strategic warfare grow, managing land-based intercontinental missiles and flying drones with computers is all that will remain of its founding claim that “strategic bombing” is the key to warfare.

Most of the Air Force will be thrown back to tactical air support for the Army — the role it least likes. None should forget, however, that the military services, their missions and budgets, exist for the country, not vice versa.

The first part of Trump’s presidency suggested deference to the national security establishment in general, and to generals specifically. We need not enquire how he managed to override the establishment’s entrenched resistance to establishing a Space Force. We can applaud the decision and wish him well in carrying it through.

That won’t be easy because, in addition to bureaucratic resistance, an undertaking so pregnant of major consequences and so focused on America’s own interest must overcome our ruling class’s ingrained small-mindedness and its allergy to any unilateral assertion of America’s own interests.

Lyndon Johnson, the father of the Space Program, he of the Houston Space Center, the real engine that propelled America to the moon, was the last authoritative American figure who thought in terms of American dominance of space, or anything else. In his time however, America’s bipartisan ruling class shrank back from that, destroying much that had been good and great in America, even taking the enemy’s side in Vietnam.

By the time Americans landed on the moon, that class had turned to petty, divisive, political correctness indulged behind a shield of fraudulent internationalism. Reagan was a lonely anomaly. Today, that class warns the American people against the supposed dangers of making America safe by putting America first, and making it militarily preponderant. They call this  “isolationism,” “unilateralism,” and even “imperialism,” though putting these terms together makes no sense.

But nothing makes more sense than that. If the Space Force actually comes into being, its considerable military value may be inferior to its role as a reminder, to us Americans above all, that we have it within ourselves to do what is necessary for our own good.

Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University oversaw space intelligence programs for the Senate Intelligence Committee and worked on missile defense programs.