“Brave cadets of the United States Space Force Academy are signing up today to fight in the Third Moon War! American space marines are in heated battle with Chinese forces at the Sea of Tranquility, as star ships trade missile broadsides in the skies of Mars. Are you doing your part? Would you like to know more?”
You see where I’m going with this, right? Paul Verhoeven’s infamous portrayal of Starship Troopers might be a science fiction classic, but the Trump Administration might be working to make it a reality.
The recent announcement by President Trump on the creation of a “Space Force,” a sixth military branch dedicated to…secure space for America? At a meeting of the National Space Council, Trump stated ”it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”
While the military is notorious for an ever growing demand to fund often fruitless or unneeded research and development, even they have recently objected proposals for space. In a letter to lawmakers last year, Defense Secretary James Mattis “strongly” urged Congress to reconsider a proposal to establish a separate “Space Corps,” saying it was “premature” to set up a new organization “at a time I am trying to reduce overhead.”
“The creation of an independent Space Corps, with the corresponding institutional growth and budget implications, does not address the specific concerns nor our nation’s fiscal problems in a responsive manner,” The Hill quoted Mattis.
There is also the question of whether the United States actually has the right to militarize space in the first place. At the height of the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union, there was growing concern in the international community that the two nations would place nuclear weapon sites in Earth’s orbit or on the moon. The United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and dozens more nations signed the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which forbids any state from placing weapons of mass destruction in space, and prohibits any weapons testing or construction of military installations on the moon. Aside from the treaty, military presence in space is still possible, but within limitations put in place by international law; space is considered a “global commons,” like the world’s oceans.
But the other issue regarding Trump’s decision is what exactly the “Space Force” would entail, and why exactly it should exist. Reports crept out late in the Obama administration that Russia and China were performing tests on missile systems designed to better target vital communication and infrastructure satellites in orbit, which could be a concern if tensions between the US and either country escalated into full war. But in that case satellites would be the least of our worries. If it was merely a single micro-aggression, the destruction of a single satellite could launch a cascade effect that would likely even harm the aggressor’s infrastructure.
Frankly, if the United States had to outspend China in a new space race, we would lose. While military spending “only” amounts to 3.5 percent of America’s GDP, it totals over 54 percent of the federal budget, or almost $600 billion. China, on the other hand, reportedly only spends $171 billion on its military. Spending more money doesn’t equate to victory; when President Reagan unveiled his fantastical Strategic Defense Initiative, his advisers were debating whether the Soviet Union was spending 13 or 15 percent of their GDP on defense. It was discovered after the Cold War that the Soviets were spending up to 40 percent of their GDP on military efforts.
At a time when we can barely fund missions to space, and the low probability that a strike in space would even occur, what would we be spending this funding on? Building a star fleet would be ridiculous, and I highly doubt that we could even accomplish manned patrols in orbit. Stationing weapons systems in orbit would probably be the only feasible task. Another aspect could be increasing cyber security for satellite infrastructure, but the Air Force Space Command already exists for that purpose.
I believe this Space Force boondoggle is another example of Trump hearing one thing from his advisers and imagining another. Remember when Trump said that his border wall needed to be literally transparent? Someone probably mentioned in a meeting that building the wall would require financial transparency, but Trump took that as the wall needed to be see-through. In this situation, I imagine a defense adviser said something about concerns over national security, and it warped into “Lets send troops to the Moon.” It boggles the mind that this kind of egotistical project would be prioritized over, let’s say, Veterans’ Affairs, which has gone critically underfunded and understaffed for years.
With that in mind, I’m incredibly excited to be conscripted into the space marines and die over Saturn.