Space Force

Yes, we need one, or at least some entity dedicated to space. I don’t understand why they keep saying a “sixth branch of the armed services,” though. Are they calling the Coast Guard an “armed service”? I don’t think that’s right.

[Update a while later]

Only Nixon could go to China, and only Trump could go to space.

Not sure he’s being entirely serious.

[Update late Sunday evening]

OK, one more: How we can own the libs on space.

By the way, Jim Bennett’s analogy in comments is useful, and I did a Twitter thread on it.

BTW, for those who corrected me legally in comments on whether or not the USCG is an armed service, my concern is that by lumping it in, it fails to make crucial distinctions. It’s certainly a uniformed service with an academy, but it is more intrinsically civilian.

36 thoughts on “Space Force”

  1. Your posted article didn’t seem to mention one good reason for a “space force”. How about SDI? At least the space based component of missile defense. Might be indeed a good idea to have it under the umbrella of just one department of DOD.

    1. “Your posted article didn’t seem to mention one good reason for a “space force”. ”

      I cribbed this from a listing on, and the only thing I would question is the nukes as a useful function.

      “* Surveillance
      *Anti Satellite offense/defense
      *Global Ballistic Strike (anti-shipping, SEAD, anti-air, airfield suppression,conventional nuclear counterforce)
      *Launch Suppression
      *Nuclear Weapons Delivery. (Assuming STRATCOM is eventually swallowed by the Space Force.)

      Some of these functions are current to Space Command, and are currently starved under the Air Staff’s need for money to keep fighter squadrons combat ready, through “reprogramming” of Space Command appropriated funds.

  2. Regarding your aside: Are they calling the Coast Guard an “armed service”?

    10 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions(a)(4): The term “armed forces” means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

    Going back further, to the very formation of the modern Coast Guard in 1915 via ch. 20, § 1, 38 Stat. 800: Be it enacted … That there shall be established in lieu of the existing Revenue-Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service, to be composed of those two existing organizations, with the existing offices and positions and the incumbent officers and men of those two services, the Coast Guard, which shall constitute a part of the military forces of the United States and which shall operate under the Treasury Department in time of peace and operate as a part of the Navy, subject to the orders of the Secretary of the Navy, in time of war or when the President shall so direct.

    1. Yep. Boater safety and SAR are only part of the mission; they’re also involved in interdiction and the like.

      In wartime the USCG also takes on a home/coastal defense role, helping free up USN resources for overseas fighting.

      1. But only the Coast Guard and the National Guard are listed alongside the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines here:

        Note that the point isn’t that the Coast Guard is a uniformed service — after all, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
        and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps
        are uniformed services. But the Coast Guard is part of the United States armed forces — and at all times. See Title 14 of the US Code :

        14 U.S. Code § 1 – Establishment of Coast Guard
        US Code
        The Coast Guard, established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times.

          1. The Surgeon General is a commissioned officer, and has a military rank for the duration of his/her appointment. To make things even more confusing, the rank is Vice Admiral. That’s why their uniforms and insignia are Navy.

        1. Yeah,. and Coasties fought in Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

          It’s a real armed service, even if most of the time it’s rescuing boaters or interdiction work.

          1. In WWII, the Coast Guard played a very active role. They performed beach patrols, and on one of those, a Coast Guardsman spotted German spies that had been put ashore from a U-boat to commit sabotage. The Coast Guard was very active in anti-submarine warfare (so was the Civil Air Patrol) and performed a great deal of convoy escort services. And, you know those landing craft that hit the beaches at places Normandy? A lot of them were steered by Coast Guardsmen. So yeah, they’re a military service worthy of respect.

          2. I intended no disrespect in any way. Their unofficial motto is “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” I’m simply pointing out that there are important distinctions between them and the services that always report to the Pentagon (e.g., they can enforce civil law without violating posse comitatus).

  3. It’s important to realize that the proposed initiative does not start by creating new space systems, it starts by reorganizing the space force we already have, which currently is called the US Air Force Space Command. It controls systems such as the GPS satellite constellation, which if destroyed would cripple the US military and US civilian economy. What it would do from Day One of its creation is to allow young people to enlist directly into the space service, know that they will spend their careers working on defending the US’s interests in space, and have a path to the highest levels of their service, which currently in the Air Force tend to be reserved to air power people. It would create a voice specifically for space in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and through the Secretary of the Space Force, in the Cabinet. Today neither such exists. Even if the Space Force never has crewed space cruisers in orbit, it would serve a useful and unique function. However, I would not bet that it would never have such ships.

    1. Your comment and Rand’s tweets provide some rational pros to the discussion. I hope that other space nerds who are against the proposal read what you two wrote.

  4. Creating a Space Force as a new military branch will cause several bases and thousands of personnel to be reassigned. The Air Force currently owns and operates GPS, SBIRS, AEHF, and any remaining DSP and Milstar satellites. It has Peterson and Schreiver AFBs on Colorado, Vandenberg AFB in California, and Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida whose primary missions are space. In addition, there are smaller sites that host missile warning, space surveillance, and satellite tracking station facilities. Those units would likely be transferred to the Space Force. The Army owns and operates WGS and any remainng DSCS-3 satellites. It also operates the Reagan Test Center in Kwajelein. The Navy owns and operates MUOS and legacy UFO satellites. Those satellites and their associated personel and facilities would also be transfered. With the mssions, bases, and personnel would go the funding, which is the real reason why the other services oppose forming Space Force.

    1. They are supposed to pull in people from different branches of the military, will be interesting to see who gets pulled in from the Navy.

    2. Navy style operations would be appropriate for longer duration manned spacecraft. But those probably won’t be a major part of the Space Force for awhile.

    3. So far, I’m not onboard with this Space Force thing, because I don’t like the idea of this level of government expansion. Every military branch now, regardless if you include the National Guard and Coast Guard in the count, is in part a large administrative bureaucracy. The Space Force would just add to it. However, I could get behind it if we could get rid of some redundancy.

      I get Jim Bennett’s point, and the jist of the NYPost article. We already have elements to make up a Space Force. But will we get rid of those other elements? The US Army did to make the US Air Force, but the US Navy did not. And considering the mistakes the USAF made early on in going all in for nuclear strategic deterrence; I’m not sure the USAF was a good idea, ever.

      Most of the US military blunders of the 2nd half of the 20th Century was a lack of airpower supporting ground operations. Even today, this is still a problem in the USAF despite the value shown in both Iraq wars and Afghanistan. Yet the Marines are still a land based component of the Navy and the aviation portions of both are designed as integral parts of the defense of both the sea and land elements. I’d want the Space Force to have that mindset too.

      Further, if a Space Force was needed, can we get rid of NASA in total? I get the value of a civilian space capability, but privatize it. The Space Force can take over KSC, as it would unquestionably take over Vanderberg, and still allow for private use of the pads. This generates revenue to help fund the Space Force, and keeps costs low for a budding private space industry. I’m sure most people don’t know how much the facility costs of keeping KSC open is, but its a big portion of the NASA budget. It is also mostly worth it because of the value to the US, but hand it over to the Space Force.

      And then add in NORAD, NSA, and national space observation assets. Do these things, and the Space Force just becomes what Jim Bennett notes; a recognition of the assets we already have, but with a unified purpose of mission. I’m not worried about lack of civilian access, because the military, particularly in space, has been very accommodating in this arena. We may need to worry about an Obama type Administration corrupting the system, but we should worry about that whether the Space Force exists or not.

      Alas, I don’t see these things getting done, so I currently stand opposed to the Space Force initiative.

  5. Just to throw this out. There are seven uniformed services in the United States. Includes Armed Services as wel..

    Marine Corps
    Air Force
    Coast Guard
    US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
    NOAA Commissioned Officers Corps

    Then there is the US Merchant Marine. My grandfather joined this during World War I and was posted on a sailing ship converted to steam to ferry supplies across the Atlantic.

  6. Rand,
    “…It’s certainly a uniformed service with an academy, but it is more intrinsically civilian.”

    Except during time of declared war, in which the U.S. Coast Guard becomes part of the U.S. Navy (as happened, for example, during WWII). Not sure if the *current* state of affairs qualifies, although by any reasonable measure I think it should!

  7. Until and unless one can walk over to operations, schedule a flight for the next day, and then that next morning put a satellite into orbit to replace the one that was destroyed….until that capability is in hand, a space force is nothing but a paper tiger.

    1. Are our current space operations a paper tiger?

      I like where you are going with that though, launch on demand is something we need.

      1. The commercial spaceflight people appear to be moving in the direction of frequent and short notice launch. Launch center operations seems to be one lagging element, something for a Space Force to work on.

  8. All I need to do to destroy the space operations of the U.S. are a few launches to sufficient altitude and a lot of ball bearings. Or dust. Paper tiger? Naaaah, more precisely, undefended *treasure,* at present, with no way to reconstitute in any real time manner. Two to three or four years to reconstitute, say, GPS, at this time? What are you gonna do in the meantime?

    Until the U.S. has easy, FREQUENT, reliable, inexpensive access to space, it really can’t call anything it has operating in space a “space force.” (And ghod help us, let’s *not* call it “Starfleet!”) It’s just expensive stuff in orbit, waiting to be made junk.

  9. Two points: One is that Coast Guard personnel are under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; therefore, they are not civilians. The fundamental definition of a civilian is that they are under civil, not military law.

    Second in response to Tim Kyger. I understand your point. But who is more likely to establish a proper space force as you define it: the USAF or a separate Space Force? The USAF tends to take money Congress allocates for military space and find ways to spend it on airplanes. SpaceX spent, I believe, around $100 million to get to the first launch of a Falcon 9. That wouldn’t even buy one F-22.

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