SPECIAL TO The Washington Post
Since taking office, President Donald Trumpâ€™s top priority has been to strengthen our national defense and protect the American people. We have made historic investments to rebuild our armed forces. We have removed unnecessary restraints on our commanders, giving them the rules of engagement they need to defeat our enemies. And to meet the emerging threats in space, the newest war-fighting domain, the president has called for the creation of the U.S. Space Force.
On Friday, the defense secretary released a legislative proposal at the presidentâ€™s direction to establish the Space Force, within the Air Force, as the sixth branch of the armed forces. This legislation is the first step toward creating a new, separate military department for space in the future, and our administration will continue working closely with leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle to get a bill that creates the Space Force to the presidentâ€™s desk this year.
Space is central to our way of life. U.S. leadership in space has pioneered groundbreaking new technologies; revolutionized how we communicate, travel, farm and trade; supported countless U.S. jobs; and above all made the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still.
Over the past 60 years, the United States has assembled the worldâ€™s largest, most sophisticated constellation of military and intelligence satellites. And we have forged the technology to leverage U.S. power in space here on Earth, giving our war-fighters and intelligence community a strategic advantage and increasing the agility, precision and lethality of our military.
But the domain of space, once desolate and uncontested, is now crowded and confrontational. As the Defense Intelligence Agency detailed in a recent report, China and Russia are aggressively developing and deploying capabilities - including anti-satellite weapons, airborne lasers, menacing â€śon-orbitâ€ť capabilities and evasive hypersonic missiles - that have transformed space into a war-fighting domain.
While our adversaries have weaponized space, too often we have bureaucratized it. Organizational inefficiencies that plague our space military authorities, war-fighting capabilities, acquisition programs and personnel policies stifle our ability to meet the rapidly evolving threats in space.
Responsibility for our national-security space programs is spread across more than 60 departments and agencies, resulting in a glaring lack of leadership and accountability that undermines our combatant commanders and puts our war-fighters at risk.
Weâ€™ve known about this problem for decades. A 1994 General Accounting Office report warned of these â€śfragmented responsibilities.â€ť In 2001, the Rumsfeld Space Commission stated that Americaâ€™s military and intelligence agencies are â€śnot yet arranged or focused to meet [our] national security space needs.â€ť In 2008, the Allard Commission bluntly observed: â€śNo oneâ€™s in charge.â€ť
For too long, these warnings have been ignored. But in this administration, we are no longer just studying the problem - weâ€™re starting to fix it. And the Space Force is the solution.
At the presidentâ€™s direction, the defense secretary is already establishing a unified combatant command for space that will centralize the command-and-control structure for space war-fighting. It will also develop and implement the unique strategy, doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures our armed forces need to deter and defeat a new generation of threats in space.
But to ensure the success of our war-fighters in this new domain, Congress must modify Title 10 of the U.S. Code to establish a new branch of our armed forces that is responsible for organizing, training and equipping space forces, including both combat and combat-support functions for offensive and defensive space operations.
For that reason, the defense secretaryâ€™s proposal calls on Congress to establish a chief of staff and undersecretary for space, and to consolidate existing uniformed and civilian personnel involved in military space activities into the new Space Force.
The first-year cost to stand up a lean, focused Space Force is expected to be $72 million, and less than $2 billion total over the next five years. Once fully established, the additional cost will be roughly $500 million per year, the equivalent of 0.07 percent of our entire defense budget.
Under this proposal, the Space Force would be within the Air Force, similar to the placement of the Marine Corps within the Navy. More than any other organization, the Air Force has been at the vanguard of building the worldâ€™s best military space programs. So, creating the Space Force within the Air Force is the best way to minimize duplication of effort and eliminate bureaucratic inefficiencies.