Thirty-five years after US President Ronald Reagan’s desire to “master space to counter any Russian attack”, Donald Trump announced on August 9, 2018, that he wants to create a Space Force to monitor and protect American satellites. Is this a military response to a real threat or just electioneering?
A project in the image of the president
According to the current American president, in order to defend the United States, “a mere presence in space is not enough, we have to dominate space” and his vice-president Mike Pence goes further by saying that the United States “is preparing for the next battlefield”. In practical terms, Trump wants to win the satellite war – essential geolocation tools for all the world’s armies – and prevent certain nations from disturbing American facilities in space and calling into question American supremacy. China’s attack in 2007 on an American missile and airborne lasers intended to destroy American satellites are sufficient proof, in the eyes of Mike Pence, that space is becoming militarized and that a response is necessary by creating this 6th branch of the US Armed Forces – alongside the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. It’s objective will be to defend all American equipment in space and it will have a space development agency, whose mission will be to more quickly detect all new technologies. Although its implementation is planned for 2020, this project best be submitted to Congress for a preliminary vote, the result of which is far from sure.
Many sceptics to convince
Since this announcement was made, detractors and sceptics have surfaced. First of all, the question of financing very quickly came into the debate. “Why invest eight billion dollars to create a 6th branch of the armed forces, when the Space Force already exists within the Air Force?”, asks Scott Ketty, a retired astronaut. This game of musical chairs would require a new administration and the hiring of hundreds of officials. Of course, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the annual military budget, estimated at more than $710 billion, but it doesn’t leave the Democrats indifferent, who would rather that this sum be invested in measures to improve the health and well-being of Americans. In addition, some are questioning whether the deadlines announced will be met, as Deborah James, former Secretary of the Air Force, expressed, estimating that setting up such a project would require five to ten years, rather than two. It raises the question whether it is not an electoral gimmick, in view of the mid-term ballot in November, to prove to American citizens that the United States not only dominates the financial world but also space. It could even be an argument for the 2020 presidential campaign (some argue that the Space Force logo would appear on promotional items!).
Whether or not this project takes place, space has just lost its aura by being called a new battlefield for our civilization. Let us hope that it’s only a war of words and that the universe once again becomes a place of discovery and wonder.