A month ago, President Donald Trump announced the formation of a new branch of the US military dedicated to space. While the US military’s current youngest branch, the US Air Force, already fulfils much of this role the news of a Space Force caused much excitement amongst the defence community and online.
The formation of a new branch of the military, however, is no simple thing. It must be mandated by Congress, just as the US Air Force was, and the US legislature looks no nearer to green lighting the President’s new military branch.
In June, at a meeting of the National Space Council, the President said: “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force—separate but equal. It’s going to be something.” Since then reaction in the House of Representatives and the Senate Congress’ has been muted.
Congress recently agreed the military spending bill for the US military through fiscal year 2019, and there were only minimal references to a possible ‘space force’. Instead it discusses the need to “develop a space warfighting policy”. Section Sec. 1602. of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, discusses a review of the US’ space capabilities.
While the mention of a new branch of the military in the Defense Authorization act may be seen as a slight to the President, DefenseOne note that he announced announced the formation of the ‘Space Force’ just a day before the bill entered an improatant negotiation phase where Republicans and Democrats haggle over the bill’s finer details making it unlikely for such a major change to make it into the bill at such a late stage.
The Pentagon itself is broadly opposed to the formation of a dedicated Space Force, happy with the US Air Force’s role in that realm. CNA, a nonprofit research organisation, has however, been tasked by the Pentagon to explore the idea and is set to report on the concept of a dedicated space force by the end of the year. The idea of a dedicated space corps has been tabled a number of times in the past and has yet to gain real traction.