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THE ATLANTIC: DOES THE MILITARY NEED A SPACE CORPS?

Aug 10, 2017
Defense Drumbeat

Does the U.S. Military Need a Space Corps?
Russell Berman, The Atlantic, 8 Aug 2017 

“In a bipartisan vote last month, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would direct the Defense Department to build a new 'space corps' within the Air Force… The U.S. Space Command is currently housed within the Air Force, and the House proposal calls for it to become a separate service while still reporting to the secretary of the Air Force… it would not become a new department with its own secretary, although [Rep. Mike] Rogers has warned that might be necessary in the future. Rogers and [Rep. Jim] Cooper’s chief complaints about the Air Force’s handling of space are both bureaucratic and cultural. For years, they say, the Air Force has raided funds from the Space Command to cover cost-overruns for other projects. And it has failed to promote space leaders up the chain of command.”...

Space Corps backers “blame the Pentagon for failing to prioritize space security in recent years: “a lapse that has allowed rivals like Russia and China the opportunity to catch up to U.S. superiority. The proposal’s fate now rests in the Senate, but its most powerful foe is the military itself, which says Congress should simply send more resources rather than force it to undertake a bureaucratic overhaul during a time of war...”
 
“‘The military has not done a good enough job looking after space with all its other distracting priorities,’ said Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat who has championed the idea of a space corps along with Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, the chairman of an armed-services subcommittee in the House. ‘It’s just not getting the attention it deserves.’”...
 
Experts: “We can’t fight without fighting through space”: “Space has become as integral to military operations as it has for anyone who uses an iPhone to get directions through GPS or an up-to-the-second weather forecast. 'Our military now is completely dependent on space,' said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. 'We can’t fight without fighting through space. When we put a bomb on a target somewhere in the world, did that bomb come from space? Not physically, but the bomb would not have gotten there without our space capabilities. So it is a space-enabled bomb.'”…
 
Emerging Threats from Russia and China: “In phone interviews, Rogers and Cooper cited the emerging threat from Russia and China as the reason for the newfound political momentum. Rogers said lawmakers had received alarming classified briefings about the two countries’ capabilities and said the Air Force was consistently six to eight years behind in deploying its own new capabilities. Both countries, he said, had recently gained ‘peer status’with the United States in space. The worry is that either country could neutralize key U.S. satellites. ‘They recognize they cannot take us on and it be a fair fight,’ Rogers told me. ‘But if they take our eyes and ears out, they actually have a chance to have a fair fight with the United States. We don’t ever want to get into a war where we have a fair fight.’”...
 
“’We don’t want them to be able to neutralize one of our satellites, even for 10 or 15 minutes, blinding them while they launch or while they set up to launch,’ Rogers continued. He wouldn’t detail exactly what Russia or China could do, citing the classified briefings. ‘They have offensive capability, and I can’t talk any more about it than to say that.’
 
“Cooper said the risk of an attack on U.S. satellites went far beyond the military. ‘If our satellites were attacked, we would be blinded, deaf, and impotent before we even knew what hit us,’ he said. ‘Everything from ATM machines to Zumwalt destroyers would be paralyzed.’”...
 
A new space corps would represent more of a bureaucratic reshuffling than a major expansion of the Space Command, which currently employs about 36,000 people and is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. It would not affect NASA or the government’s intelligence operations in space. The goal is to protect the military’s budget for space; speed up the development and deployment of new capabilities; and establish a new culture that encourages, and promotes, servicemen and women who specialize in space…
 
Pentagon tries to buy time: “Mostly, the Pentagon is trying to buy more time. In an official statement of policy, the Trump administration said the creation of a space corps was ‘premature’ and that the Defense Department was still assessing the possibility as one option in a broader reorganization. And the House proposal calls for an ambitious timetable, requiring the Pentagon to submit designs for the space corps by the beginning of 2019. Whether the idea gets through the Senate is unclear. The Senate’s version of the NDAA calls for a new office devoted to coordinating the space mission at the Pentagon, but not a new service. ‘They addressed a different set of issues in a totally different way,’ Harrison said. ‘It doesn’t fix the budget issue and it doesn’t address the culture issue.’”

“A Long History” of resisting outside reorganization: “Indeed, the military has a long history of resisting outside efforts to assign priority status and independence to a new war-fighting domain. In 1947, it was the Navy that fought the creation of a separate service that would strip away its dominion above the sea. The entity that emerged was the Air Force, which seven decades later is waging a similar bureaucratic battle for control—over a far more expansive territory up above.”

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