White House rejects House proposal to create a military “Space Corps”


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The White House today objected to a House defense policy bill that included a number of provisions, including the creation of a separate “Space Corps.”

Proposals to build the “Space Corps,” to prohibit a military base closure round, levy notification requirements for military cyber operations, develop a ground-launched cruise missile — and to “misuse” wartime funds for enduring needs — were some of the Trump administration targets.

The White House stopped short of threatening a veto, however, and said it looks forward to working with Congress to address the concerns. Still, the list will provide ammunition to Democrats and Republicans who hope to pick off provisions of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act when it comes to the House floor on Wednesday.

The idea at this time of establishing a separate military division devoted to space military operations is absurd, a waste of money, and would only create an additional bureaucracy that no one needs right now. However, in reading this op-ed by retired Air Force colonel M.V. “Coyote” Smith, one of the early proponents of this idea, I am not surprised to learn that one of the key good reasons for creating such a force is the Outer Space Treaty. As Smith notes,

Created at the height of the moon race between the two principle [sic] Cold War antagonists and others, the Outer Space Treaty was designed to prevent either power from claiming sovereignty over the entire moon upon arriving first. It succeeded. Unfortunately, it forbids any national appropriation of real estate and resources in space.

This prevents the issuance of property deeds and the awarding of resource rights to any part of the planets, moons and asteroids, without a potential legal contest. This also frustrates commercial and private entities whose business plans require legal clarity.

Thus, the limitations of the Outer Space Treaty forces the need for a military force to protect the rights of any American individual or businesses in space. As I said today in my op-ed for The Federalist:

The Outer Space Treaty poses limits on property rights. It also does not provide any mechanism for peacefully establishing sovereignty for any nation on any territory in space. Yet national sovereignty and territorial control is a given in all human societies. If we do nothing to establish a peaceful method for creating sovereignty and national territories in space, nations are going to find their own way to do it, often by force and violence.

Thus, no one should be surprised by this first proposal. It might be too soon, but it probably is not as soon as many critics claim. Unless we get the Outer Space Treaty revised to allow the establishment of internationally recognized borders, the need by everyone for a military in space to defend their holdings will become essential. And what a messy process that will be.

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8 comments

  • Judy

    In the first paragraph of the quote from Col. Smith, shouldn’t “principle” be “principal”?

  • LocalFluff

    Have all treaties ever made lasted for ever? The treaty of Tordesillas for example?
    No? Okay. So the only question is what the temporary cold war OST fraud should be replaced with. I suggest with American law, plain and simple.

    International treaties are pure lies and something one only cares about as long as it furthers one’s own purposes. Only some Americans might think differently about it, because they unfortunately study too much navel gazing law and then try to make themselves look wise by saying something about their waste of time. Everyone else is laughing out loud.

  • wayne

    Starship Troopers –
    “I’m Doing My Part” (…Service, guarantees Citizenship)
    https://youtu.be/SMTz9nIUkGc
    (2:12)

  • LocalFluff

    wayne
    I watched that movie in the cinemas three times in a row on its premiere! After the first view, my crazy friend (and this isn’t a romantic dating movie) asked me if we shouldn’t watch it again? Of course! Kill the bugs, kill’em all. That’s what I mean with “planetary protection”! Only three times because they closed the moving pictures theater at midnight. The ticket lady gave us a suspicious look.

  • Judy: You are right, but it is what the quote is. I will add a “sic.”

  • Dick Eagleson

    Robert,

    I think your gyros are tumbled on this one.

    The Space Corps is not being proposed because of anything having to do with the OST, but because the U.S. has more vital space assets – military, civilian and dual-use – in various Earth orbits than any other nation and yet has no way whatsoever to actively defend any of them against attack. Space has been a responsibility of USAF for decades. USAF has, to put it mildly, consistently and flagrantly dropped the ball.

    The infamous Chinese ASAT test took place a decade ago. In that time, USAF has done a grand total of nothing toward providing active defense capability against direct-ascent ASAT weapons. Instead, it has repeatedly siphoned off money appropriated for space to cover deficits in bottomless-pit aircraft programs, notably the F-35. The Chinese have continued to develop direct-ascent ASAT weaponry and have now demonstrated the capability to reach satellites all the way from LEO to GEO altitudes. The Russians have built and deployed “stalker-sats” which, in recent times, have paid a number of up-close-and-personal visits to a number of civilian GEO comsats. At the moment, the U.S. has no capability at all to counter any of this. That is entirely USAF’s fault.

    Space is probably the most Rodney Dangerfield-like mission area within USAF’s purview in that it “don’t get no respect.” Anent career path and promotions, Space Command has always been a USAF backwater. It’s highest-ranking officer wears three stars. It’s funding is, essentially, a slush fund for whatever the fighter and bomber people need to cover their own deficits.

    The initial proposal is to stand up a “Space Corps” within USAF that would have roughly the same relationship to USAF as the Marine Corps does to the Navy. That would include separate career and promotion tracks and its own 4-star Commandant with a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Personally, I’d like to skip the intermediate step of a Corps and go directly to a fully-stand-alone Space Force analogous to what was done in the late 40’s in separating what is now USAF from the Army. The Marines do a lot better than USAF’s current Space Command at getting and effectively using resources, but still not, in my opinion, at a level commensurate with their contributions to U.S. national defense.

    A putative U.S. Space Corps/Force needs to be able to develop and deploy means of actively defending not only U.S. space-based assets from attack by hostile powers, but to deny said powers the use of their own space-based assets in the event of war. It also needs to provide space-based defense against hostile attack modes that transit space – ICBM’s and IRBM’s.

    All this can be done via unmanned orbital hardware. The U.S. commercial launch sector now leads the world in low-cost lift to LEO and beyond and it’s just getting warmed up. The U.S. military needs to leverage this unique capability to deploy so much defensive space weaponry that no opponent can possibly take enough of it out in a surprise attack to justify the effort. USAF, plainly, has no real intention of doing so as presently constituted. Hence, the Space Corps/Force idea.

    There are additional space missions of a type more directly analogous to those of the current U.S. Coast Guard. Some of these would probably benefit from the presence of human “Coasties” in orbit. Search and rescue in space and medical evacuation from space are two such. A more pressing chore that doesn’t require human presence is orbital debris mitigation.

    These are not missions that a Space Corps/Force would necessarily be best oriented or equipped to perform. I prefer a separate military arm to do these things. I think the U.S. High Guard – as I prefer it be named – be tasked to do these much more civilian-like missions.

    I expect to be publishing more on these matters in future, but these are large subject matter areas and the research is time-consuming.

  • Dick Eagleson: If you read my post carefully, you will see that I am not opposed to the eventual need of such a military force in space. I just think it is absurd and a waste to establish it now, when it literally can do nothing in space to protect any of our resources.

    For example, you cite the Chinese ASAT test. How would this bureaucratic corps of space soldiers on Earth, in the Pentagon, prevent another such action? Wave their paperwork at them?

    When we have affordable and regular launch capabilities and are actually able to maintain a population in space, then such a force will not only be possible but will be necessary, especially if the Outer Space Treaty is not renegotiated. Establishing it now will instead make it a paper tiger, designed solely to waste taxpayer dollars (which we don’t have) for the benefit of Washington.

  • wayne

    “High Noon, on a Titanium mine, on IO”
    [the first 9 minutes of “Outland,” 1981)
    https://youtu.be/-J8mOOtS7XI?t=91

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