Why the $738 billion House bill to establish “Space Force” is a good thing, even if it sounds totally absurd
The US has been considering this for over 20 years now
Donald Trump wanted a Space Force, and now it looks like he’s going to get one.
Last week, the Democrat-controlled House passed a massive $738 billion bill that includes a (long overdue) pay-raise for American military troops, grants any federal employee 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, and, notably, authorizes the creation of a new branch of the US military: The U.S. Space Force.
The bill moved through the House in a 377-48 vote, with most of the “no” votes coming from Democrats whose priorities were removed from the legislation after months of negotiation.
It still has to make it through the Senate before it can be signed and ratified by the President. But Trump wants it on his desk. He’s already said that he will sign the compromise bill, and the Republican controlled Senate is more than likely going to let him.
Meaning that, soon there will be a new branch of military recruiting America’s youth for service. One which would be focused on the horizon of space and technology, new frontiers and new threats. One which would provide a huge launchpad for individuals, startups and established businesses that want to work on the cutting edge of military and space technology.
Not his idea, but his victory
The same day the bill passed the House, Trump tweeted:
“Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!”
Now before we go giving Trump too much credit for having come up with this idea, let’s clarify that, he didn’t. This is not Trump’s brainchild, no matter how much he might want to put his name on it. Discussions of a U.S. Space Force go back to the late 90’s, when Air Force Chief of Staff Ron Fogelman laid out his vision to, “transition from an air force to an air and space force, on an evolutionary path toward a space and air force.”
Then in 2001 the Rumsfeld Space Commission released its final report on the idea of creating a Space Force, recommending a gradual shift towards creating a completely separate Service for space by creating a Space Force within the Air Force.
Which is what is about to happen if this bill makes it to Trump’s desk.
Still, even though it wasn’t his idea to begin with, Trump will undoubtedly take credit for it. And he will likely be remembered in history books as the President with the foresight to create a Space Force.
Sci-fi concept with real-world application
As strange and science fiction-y as this might sound, the creation of the Space Force would be a realistically positive thing for America.
Countries like China are investing huge sums in their space programs, building spy satellites and weaponized satellites that could strike down upon us from above like an angry god. China is even planning on sending human beings to Mars next year (2020) to beat the US to the punch and inspire their entire country to become even more interested in space.
And private space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have also begun to surpass our own government, which has largely put space exploration on the back burner. Something that, to many in our own government, is a risk to U.S. dominance and security.
In an article for the Center for Strategic and International Studies Todd Harrison the director of the Defense Budget Analysis and director of the Aerospace Security Project, wrote:
“Much like aviation during the interwar period, space and counterspace technologies are rapidly evolving, and these capabilities are likely to play a decisive role in the next major war. I am convinced that the time for a separate military department for space is upon us, and we should not wait for another Pearl Harbor to prove it.”
That’s hard to argue with. If the US had never established itself as an aviation force, we likely couldn’t have won the second or even the first World War. Gaining proficiency and superiority with the latest technology on the latest fronts of warfare, is essential for staying at the top of the food chain.
And with our global civilization expanding upwards, outwards and into space, there is reason to put stock in a new branch of the military dedicated to protecting this country and its citizens… from space.
Besides, who’s going to be our first line of defense when the aliens show up?
A New Frontier for businesses
Naturally, when a new branch of the military is formed to address a new frontier of warfare, it opens wide the doors for lucrative new innovations and technologies. Companies and entrepreneurs who want to get their foot in the door on the ground floor of a completely new field of technology, might soon have their golden opportunity.
Already private space technology companies are flourishing: SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and many others have popped up in recent years. And many of them are breaking ground and creating new systems, new technologies that far surpass what the Federal government has been able to accomplish at NASA.
Companies like these will likely become the government’s first choices for defense contracts — contracts that could be worth billions of dollars over time. The NDAA that passed through the House allocates $13 billion over the next five years to ramp up the Space Force branch. They are going from solicitation to contract awards in a mere 93 days and a business that’s invited to pitch their technology or service, could walk away that same day with funding.
So, if you’re an enterprising entrepreneur or an eager engineer dying to get your feet wet with military space technology, now is your time to shine.
What else is in the Space Force bill?
It’s kind of a hodge-podge of different party priorities Frankenstein-ed together into a single compromise.
On top of establishing a Space Force, the bill also grants any federal employee 12 paid weeks of maternity leave. That is a big and positive step for the government, not just because it is a compassionate thing to do for new parents, but because it will incentivize more people to work for the Federal Government. Because, let’s face it, if the DMV and the Post Office are any indication of who our Federal government employs, we need fresh blood in the system.
Then, there’s the pay raise for American troops — a salary bump of 3.1-percent. Considering that the lowest paid soldiers (those with less than two-year’s experience) get paid about $2,139 a month, that raise equates to about a $66 per month. Which, doesn’t seem like much for people who are out there putting their lives on the line… but who’s complaining? A raise is a raise.
So what priorities were left out of the bill? Why did forty-one Democrats still vote against it?
Because, after months of back and forth negotiation, a lot of things were taken out: language that would have reversed Trump’s ban on transgenders in the military; language that would have blocked Trump from taking military action in Iran; language that would have ended the U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, banned new transfers from Guantanamo Bay, blocked deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads and language that would force the clean-up of cancer causing “forever-chemicals.”
Oh, and a provision that would have blocked Trump from dipping into Pentagon funds to build his border wall.
All of that, and likely more, was dropped in order to get this thing passed up to the Senate floor.
In the end, though, even without all that stuff, this bill is a win — no matter how many Democratic appendages were amputated from it. It makes federal employees (and their baby’s) lives a little more manageable, it gives our troops an extra $66 a month and it establishes the U.S. Space Force.
Sometimes, you just have to pick your battles, count your victories and move on to fight another day.