Why Trump’s Space Force May Have Trouble Getting Off the Ground

Why Trump’s Space Force May Have Trouble Getting Off the Ground


President Trump’s surprise announcement about the creation of a new “Space Force” branch of the military is already meeting resistance in Congress and the Pentagon.

According to The Hill, senators from both parties have downplayed the proposal this week. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “It’s one that I would have a hard time supporting. All of our branches have the space element and it’s working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who also sits on the committee, said the new military branch “would cost so much money, it would be so duplicative,” and suggested that Air Force officials are generally opposed but feel they can’t speak out against the plan now that the president has backed it. “I think it’s somebody wanting to have something new that they can talk about,” Nelson said dismissively.

Lawmakers aren’t the only skeptics when it comes to the Space Force proposal. Trump’s own administration rejected the idea last year, with Defense Secretary James Mattis writing to the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.”

Trump, however, wasn’t convinced and is now pushing for the changes he wants in what The Wall Street Journal calls a “dramatic and public fashion.”

The Pentagon has signaled that it will work with the Trump administration and Congress to implement the proposed change. And at least one analyst is saying that the move may not be the budget-buster that some critics fear.

The Air Force Space Command already has about 30,000 employees, and the Space and Missile Systems Center has another 3,000. Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Journal that if creating the Space Force simply involves moving those thousands of defense workers already working on space-related issues into a new organizational silo, then the budget effects could be kept to a minimum. The long history of budgetary bloat and bureaucratic expansion at the Pentagon, however, suggests to many critics that the move would not be so simple or cost-free.

In any event, whatever changes occur won’t happen anytime soon. Lawmakers doubt there’s time to insert legislative language into the 2019 defense authorization bill, which already has approved versions in the House and the Senate. And Mattis said Thursday that the creation of the Space Force will require a lot more work: “It’s going to require legislation and a lot of detailed planning and we’ve not yet begun.”