WHITTINGTON: Will Trump’s Space Force Be An Issue In 2020 Campaign? Count On it


Mark Whittington Contributor
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President Trump has signed SPD-4, which will establish the United States Space Force under the purview of the Air Force, much as the Marine Cops is under the United States Navy. The arrangement, which includes the establishment of a Space Force Combat Command, is seen as the first step toward establishing a truly independent Space Force.

The ink was hardly dry on the executive order when Ron DeSantis, the newly-elected governor of Florida, approached the president with his hand out. He tweeted: “Today, I am formally sending a request to @realDonaldTrump to place the headquarters for the Space Force Combatant Command here in Florida @NASAKennedy in Cape Canaveral. This is part of Florida’s history and is a logical fit for our state.”

A better location for the Space Force Combat Command if it were to go to Florida would be the Cape Canaveral Air Force Launch Station next to the Kennedy Space Center, home of the Air Force Space Command’s 45th Space Wing. In any case, DeSantis will not be the only politician to want a piece of the Space Force. Colorado, where the Air Force Space Command’s headquarters is currently located, is said to be in the running to headquarter the new Space Force Combat Command. Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, home of the 30th Space Wing, may also be in the hunt.

One safe prediction if the Space Force gets established — even as a subsidiary of the Air Force — is that all three states and more will get a portion of the new service branch, because the House is controlled by Democrats, who have a traditional skepticism of all things military. Even some Republican lawmakers are skeptical of the bureaucratic costs that a Space Force will exact. These kinds of sweeteners could be necessary to get the Space Force approved.

Of course, the other argument for a separate Space Force, having little to do with Washington pork politics, is that the United States military has become increasingly reliant on space assets. The military needs satellites to communicate, to navigate, and to spot the enemy. At the same time, potential enemies such as China and Russia are developing weapons to destroy those assets and therefore severely inhibit America’s ability to make war.

Just as the growth of air power in the middle of the last century required forming an independent Air Force, the importance of space power cries out for an independent Space Force. Space operations are not the primary focus of the Air Force, which is oriented toward war fighting in the atmosphere. Space is a different environment with its unique challenges. A service branch dedicated to operating and fighting in that environment would seem to be essential. The need will only grow greater as space becomes more important to the American economy.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine strongly supports a Space Force. He tweeted, “Civilization is dependent on freedom of navigation in space. SPD-4 ensures our freedom continues. @NASA has billions of dollars of assets and a permanent human presence in space. NASA will not have a direct role, but I support @POTUS Trump’s announcement.” Bridenstine also noted that when a similar proposal was presented to the House in 2017, it got 344 votes, one of which was his.

Still, the politics of establishing a Space Force are iffy and not necessarily shaped by rational judgment. Democrats may not be as motivated to support a new branch of the military because it is something President Trump wants. The issue may well be fought over in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.