Time has come for the formation of a US Space Force, the nation should embrace it
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As Congress returns from its Columbus Day recess this week, it will do so on the cusp of one of the most significant American military changes in decades. The nation is poised to inaugurate a new military service, the United States Space Force. In some ways this parallels the Air Force’s own birth in 1947, but will pointedly herald the entry of a 21st century military service created for the Information Age.

The creation of this new service requires modification to existing laws that will, as did the creation of the Air Force over seven decades ago, provide vital benefits to America’s long-term security. The Department of the Air Force stands ready to welcome the Space Force as its second military service.

With history as a guide, the direction of the new Space Force is clear. Like the United States Air Force, the new United States Space Force must stand on its own as a separate service and the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. And just as the forefathers of airpower understood its inevitability as a key element of the post-Industrial Age, so too must we unleash the power of independent space warfighting theory and doctrine. 

The need for a separate Air Force grew out of the lessons of World War I and the rise of airpower as weapons of war in the last century. As warfare evolved – from the ghastly, immovable trenches of the War to End All Wars, to the shock of the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor and the critical role airpower played in Second World War, and through the rise of superpower competition – a separate Air Force became a national imperative. And so it is for space today, as we think about the necessary role it will play in our national defense going forward.

Today, satellites are crucial in war and peace. Satellite technology is advancing well past its original purpose of providing images and information that were unavailable anywhere else. In fact, satellites are advancing in much the same way airplanes did last century, when they evolved from providing reconnaissance and communications to becoming decisive battlefield weapons. And we now face potential anti-satellite weapons, directed energy attacks, and electronic jamming in space. We must rapidly develop the offensive and defensive capabilities required to protect our space assets, and the warfighting techniques to employ them.

Because of the unique characteristics of space, these challenges require a separate service that can develop its own warfighting culture and craft strategies for success in this emerging and contested warfighting domain. We now have the opportunity to build the United States Space Force from the ground up, and develop a flat, rapid, and agile force that can nimbly outpace our competitors as they attempt to gain space superiority over the United States. The Space Force will be the pathfinder for a modern military service.

Space has become foundational to our commerce, national security, and way of life. There is an overwhelming case for a dedicated military branch that can focus on solving problems in in this domain in novel and more effective ways. This is not the creation of bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake; the advancing threats brought about by our adversaries’ militarization of the space domain necessitates this action. Through this new military service, the Department of the Air Force will provide the operating concepts, technology, and wherewithal necessary to continue U.S. dominance in space.

Beyond the technical expertise the new Space Force will provide, its creation will also send a powerful message to any future adversaries that the United States is as serious about space power as it is about protecting American and international interests on land, at sea, in the air, and in cyberspace. The creation of the Air Force was met with a degree of skepticism in 1947. And yet today, the U.S. Air Force has fully evolved to become a critical part of our nation’s defense apparatus. We provide a global surveillance network, combat power that can be brought to bear to any point on the planet, and global reach that fully enables our American military dominance, guaranteeing our vital national interests and our allies’ and partners’ security.

The time for the United States Space Force is now and America should fully embrace its formation.

Matt Donovan is the Acting Secretary of the United States Air Force.