By Tyler Bauer
I have a confession to make – I’ve never Star Wars or Star Trek. I have seen Spaceballs, though. I think I might have to watch Star Wars and Star Trek so I can get a better understanding of what will become the sixth branch of our military.
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence laid out a plan that would create a Space Force, which would join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and National Guard as a branch of the United States military. According to Vice President Pence, the Space Force would be created by 2020.
The Space Force, if created, would become the first new branch of the military since the Air Force was created in 1947. The White House is generally supportive of the idea of the Space Force, but many military and national security communities are not nearly as excited about the prospect of the Space Force.
The Argument for a Space Force
Throughout history, militaries have grown as technology has improved. The earliest militaries used things like sticks and stones. Then, they used swords. As we began to domesticate animals on a large scale, we utilized horses to create cavalries independent of foot soldiers. Eventually, we learned to use boats, using them first for transportation and then as weapons themselves by using cannons and mines. With the widespread use of guns, militaries began to supply their armies with muskets instead of swords. Later, with the invention of airplanes (and zeppelins), we were able to fight through the air, too. So, it’s understandable that technological advances would lead our militaries into space, too.
In his announcement regarding the Space Force, Vice President Pence called space “the next battlefield.” While I don’t think we’ve quite reached the point of our own Star Wars, I think this is a valid point. Whether it be next year or next century, it’s likely that wars will occur in space.
Given the increased frequency of cyberattacks, as well as the ability of modern technology to disable navigation and communication satellites, one can see the need to have a presence in space. The use of such attacks has given credibility to the pro-Space Force community. According to Vice President Pence, “As [China and Russia’s] actions make clear, our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already, and the United States will not shrink from this challenge.”
The Argument against a Space Force
Our current level of military spending is obscene. The federal government spends well over $600 billion every year on the military alone. Adding a sixth branch of the military – particularly one that will require cutting-edge technology – will raise spending levels considerably. I haven’t seen any estimates that include the Space Force in the budget, but I assume it will easily add one hundred billion dollars.
Also, we’re well over $21 trillion in debt. Barring some unforeseen miracle, this debt will continue to grow. Adding a Space Force to our spending will only make things worse.
As cool as a Space Force may seem, we simply can’t afford it.