- - Thursday, December 27, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Following his June 2018 proclamation of creating a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. Military, President Trump last week ordered the Pentagon to begin forming a Space Command. Critics have labeled the move as unnecessary and a waste of valuable resources, but their assessment could not be further from the truth.

Those who argue that we do not need a “second Space Force” need to get their facts straight. The Space Command is not even remotely similar. As detailed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, “The Space Force will serve as a force provider for personnel, assets, and capabilities supporting space operations while Space Command will serve as the operational command that will employ space capabilities and lead space operations.” The differences between the two, he said, will “largely parallel those of the other five military services and four functional combatant commands.”

Others believe that the Space Command will, by increasing the United States’ perceived military might, set off a nuclear arms war with adversaries like China and Russia. The individuals who ascribe to this line of reasoning have their history backward. The last thing America should want to do is provoke other countries, but the Space Command is a response to foreign meddling in space, not an exercise in nationalism. Russia is already testing and deploying ground-launch missiles and developing lasers, kamikaze satellites and kidnapper satellites to disable, smash and steal U.S. property. Unlike the previous administration, the Trump White House believes that action is a better response than lethargy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously agrees, as do most defense analysts and operatives.

Without the U.S. Space Command, defense leaders would not have the tools needed to keep the country safe. According to Glenn Gaffney, the former head of the CIA’s Science and Technology Directorate, the United States is falling behind in the new space race compared with China and Russia. He argues that the calls of experts who cautioned against cutting back on the United States’ devotion to space have been proven valid because “China and Russia have continued to build and to invest in their capabilities in this area as well as other areas,” while the United States fell asleep at the wheel. The country owes it to itself to reverse the mistakes of the past and do what is necessary to remain on top.

One cannot deny that Washington’s creation of ambitious projects like the U.S. Space Command excites the public and ensures the country’s best and brightest minds are motivated to continue exploring and innovating to give the United States a competitive advantage. Doing so is what raised the bar in the 1960s, leading to so many scientists, bureaucrats and entrepreneurs coming together to create the successful moon landing that 94 percent of the country tuned in to watch, and it is what will lead to a successful 21st-century U.S. space race as well.

Perhaps the best modern-day proven example of how thinking big protects American interests is NASA’s declaration of creating the most powerful rocket in U.S. history, the Space Launch System (SLS). SLS is important for U.S. exploratory needs, as well as for protecting valuable space assets, but its utility in rallying the public around beating China and Russia also cannot be ignored. As demonstrated through the Huntsville, Alabama, community’s constructing of 100 painted models of the rocket, with a significant portion of the proceeds going directly toward preserving legacy rockets, SLS and the history it is bound to make has given the American people a sense of pride — pride that is bound to set off a domino effect that creates better ideas, innovation and results, just as it did during the Apollo years. Once military experts begin building it out, expect the Space Command to do the same.

In short, while misinformation abounds in the mainstream media about what the new U.S. Space Command is and what it is poised to do, there is a reason why most defense experts have provided it with glowing endorsements. America has been behind in the count in space compared to the rest of the rest of the world for far too long, and the Space Command is the quickest, most effective means of keeping America safe and fixing the mistakes of the past. When the history books are written, it is inevitable that this will be seen as yet another lasting legacy of the Trump administration and its America First calling card.

• Jon Justice is author of “Embark.” He is a radio host in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, and host of the “My Nerd World: A Star Wars Podcast.”


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