Army, Navy, and Spacy?

— 10:12 AM on May 9, 2001

MSNBC is reporting that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has announced his intention of unifying the various space programs amongst the military branches under a single command, the Air Force Space Command. While such an expansion of the armed forces seems natural, there is a lot of debate about whether or not we need it now. It's not like we're battling back a horde of little green men. We are also virtually the only country left with any sort of serious space power. Once-proud Russia is having to field space tours for the rich in order to make ends meet.

So why the expansion, especially from this Republican administration? This recommendation flows out of a report from the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization.

Ahem. Would someone like to tell me where programs like that come from? CAUSNSSMO? Isn't it against some sort of US policy to have a program longer than three words or so?

Cynicism and sarcasm aside, the commission put six long months of work into their report. Here are some of their findings:

The United States depends on space more than any other country — for surveillance and other military operations, weather forecasts, cell phone connections — yet the White House, Congress and various government agencies fail to make space protection a top priority, the panel concluded.

[. . .] lack of attention to protecting government satellites and to space policy in general made the United States "an attractive candidate for a space Pearl Harbor."

The commission also said military conflicts in space were inevitable.

“We know from history that every medium — air, land and sea — has seen conflict,” the commission’s report said. “Reality indicates that space will be no different. Given this virtual certainty, the United States must develop the means both to deter and to defend against hostile acts in and from space.”

Fascinating. With scintillating words like that, I guess it's no surprise Rumsfeld had the reaction he did. The statements appeal to logic and make space-based conflicts seem inevitable. Still, who is going to execute this Pearl Harbor?

The United States already holds a significant strategic edge in space. On any given day, the Pentagon has about 50 satellites in orbit, according to U.S. officials and space experts. Russia has fewer than half that many, and China has only a sporadic military presence in space. No other nation has military satellites in orbit.

As much as my sci-fi heart relishes the idea of a US Space Force, Spacy, becoming a part of our armed services, I am not so sure it is an issue that needs to be investigated at present.
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