Trump administration pushes plans for Space Force despite criticism

World Today

For more than 70 years, the U.S. military has consisted of five branches. But if the Trump Administration has its way, a sixth arm will be created: the U.S. Space Force. Others in government have pushed back against the idea, but the administration is sticking to its guns. CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

As space industry leaders gathered at this week’s Space Symposium in Colorado, the Acting U.S. Defense Secretary issued a stern warning.

“Weapons are currently deployed by our competitors that can attack our assets in space,” Patrick Shanahan told a large audience in Colorado Springs. “Both China and Russia have weaponized space with the intent to hold U.S. space capabilities at risk.”

While China and Russia both deny any militarization of space, Shanahan said a new organization is needed to defend American space interests.

“Today we need to establish a space force to protect our future,” he said.

President Trump unveiled the idea last year. For more than 70 years, the U.S. military has consisted of five branches. The U.S. Space Force, whose goal would be to establish American space dominance and counter foreign space threats, would represent the sixth service.

It would train and equip 15,000-20,000 personnel drawn from other military services at a cost, Shanahan said, of about half a billion a year.

“We are not going to sit back and watch,” he promised. “We are going to act.”

Jim Light, Senior Director for Space Strategy at SAIC, an information technology and engineering company said there is a real threat from some countries that could target satellites and use other measures to degrade or destroy U.S. space capabilities.

“We need to react to it as a nation,” he said.

A recent anti-satellite missile test conducted by India was yet another reminder of how space is becoming more contested and weaponized, Light added.

“The whole concept of battle management in space is fairly new,” he said. “And so that’s what the industry is gearing up for is how to help the nation to take up that new mission.”

The stakes from the U.S. perspective couldn’t be higher. Satellites are critical to the economy, to things like Earth-bound navigation and communication, right down to self-driving cars of the future.

“Space is fundamental to our modern way of life,” Shanahan said, adding “Space is fundamental to our modern way of war.”

Modern war that won’t be tank-on-tank like wars of the past.

“It could be cyber, it could be laser weapons, it could be jamming the communications capability,” said Retired Brigadier General Scott Bethel, now CEO of Integrity ISR. He argued the U.S. has been naive when it comes to the space threat. And he and some in the U.S. Congress wonder whether a new military branch, built from scratch, is really the answer.

“That institution has to stand up,” Bethel said. “It has to organize. It has to find its place and that can be many years.”

But Shanahan, who also outlined plans for a beefed up U.S. Space Command and Space Development Agency, said there’s no time to waste.

“We are starting now because we refuse to fall behind,” he said. “To those who want to partner with us, buckle up.”

Space is no longer a sanctuary, he reminded his audience. It’s now a war-fighting domain.