Okay, maybe that’s getting ahead of ourselves just a smidge. But still:
The Pentagon is expected to send an interim report to Congress this week on how best to stand up the “Space Force” or some other kind of defense agency devoted to countering military threats in space.
The report, mandated by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, could play a big role in determining what the agency looks like, as President Donald Trump continues to urge a space force’s creation.
The question of whether the new space agency should be a separate military branch or just a sub-command is a hotly debated one in Washington.
Trump has called for the military to create a new branch equal to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, named “Space Force.”
“I’ve directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating the sixth branch of our military. It’s called the Space Force,” he declared last week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention to applause.
Trump first declared his desire to stand up a space force in March. His administration has put an emphasis on improving the U.S.’s space capabilities. Last year, he launched by executive order the National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.
But while Trump can direct the Pentagon to begin planning for a space force, Congress would need to authorize the creation of a new branch, and fund it.
The idea of a space force equal to the other services has been received with much excitement in the Twitter-sphere and by several in Congress, but some experts and former officials are pouring cold water on it.
Deborah Lee James, former Air Force secretary under the Obama administration, argued at a Brookings Institution panel discussion on Monday that standing up a new service would cost money, time, and attention that would distract from improving the military’s ability to counter threats in space.
Standing up a service would entail designating uniforms, logos, service academies, and other things that would be disruptive to the mission, she said.
However, she said she would support a sub-unified combatant command like U.S. Strategic Forces Command that consists of its own sub-components depending on the specific task and service components from each military branch.