The United States President Donald Trump on August 30 announced that the Pentagon has established Space Command to preserve American dominance on "the ultimate high ground" making the nation the most superior space power.
"This is a landmark day....one that recognizes the centrality of space to America's national security and defense," Trump said in a Rose Garden ceremony adding that it will "ensure that America's superiority in space is never questioned and never threatened."
During his address, Trump said that there will be a Space Command headed by a four-star Air Force general which will is a crucial announcement for American defense. Yet until now, there's no Space Force as such as Congress is yet to approve it. If it gets functional, the Space Force would be the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces and the eighth U.S. uniformed service. The functions of the force will include performing independent space operations and providing space support to land, air, naval, and cyber forces.
Trump wanted Space Force to be "separate but equal". Just as members of the Army and other services are assigned to an organization like U.S. Strategic Command, the people in Space Force would be assigned to missions directed by Space Command. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a National Space Council meeting last week, "This step puts us on a path to maintain a competitive advantage." He also endorsed creating Space Force, saying it would make a "profound difference."
Trump has been mentioning Space Force as an applause line at his campaign rallies. Despite skepticism from some lawmakers of both parties, the US Congress is moving towards approving the creation of the force. As the House and Senate bills differ on some points, an effort to reconcile the two will begin after Congress returns from its August recess.
It was Trump's second Pentagon chief who saw the worth of creating and administering a Space Force. Earlier the Pentagon was hesitant to embrace the idea of a Space Force when Jim Mattis was a Defense Secretary. Even Trump's first Pentagon chief initially saw it as potentially redundant and not the best use of defense dollars.
Esper on Wednesday said, "To ensure the protection of America's interests in space, we must apply the necessary focus, energy, and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do....As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service."
Air Force Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, who will serve as the first commander of US Space, made the case for changing the way the military approaches its space mission.
"Unfortunately, our adversaries have had a front-row seat into our many successes and have seen the advantages that they provide us....And to be honest, they don't like what they see. And they're rapidly developing capabilities to negate our use of space and to negate the advantage that space provides," Raymond said.
Kaitlyn Johnson, a defense space expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies is not sure if the force will get approved. She thinks that the attention to space during the Trump administration has led some to exaggerate the scope of change reflected in the moves to create Space Command and Space Force. These moves, she said, "seem very flashy and fun," but are not.
US Satellites at risk with the space force
With this force, there are threats to the American Space satellites as making the space a defense domain make the satellites susceptible to disruption by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons. Last March, India too tested its ASAT missile (Mission Shakti) destroying a pre-determined target of a live satellite which was both applauded and questioned by nations across the world, with the major issue being space debris.
(With inputs from Associated Press)