President Trump’s Space Force is an out of this world request, said an Obama-era Air Force secretary Monday.“My very short response is no. I do not believe that we should have a separate Space Force,” Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said Monday at a Brookings event on the pros and cons of a space force. “And I come down to a fundamental issue as to why I think this is so. I always like to begin by asking, what exactly is the problem we are trying to solve?”
James went on to describe how having a separate Space Force wouldn’t actually help the U.S. in space in four key areas that need improvement: money, a slow acquisition process, people problems, and war-fighting focus. “Space Force is not your solution,” she repeatedly said on each of the four topics.The Brookings meeting was set up in a response to President Trump’s June announcement about creating a new branch of the U.S. Military that would be called the Space Force.“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” the president said during a speech at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House in June. “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces. That’s a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force—separate but equal. It’s going to be something.”Shortly after his announcement, lawmakers in the House and Senate passed their defense bill without a Space Force. The bill did direct the secretary of defense’s office to “develop a space warfighting policy,” but doesn’t say anything about creating a new military branch. And while a space force would be responsible for establishing security in space, foreign policy experts have been skeptical about if it’s actually in the best interest for the U.S.
Though Pentagon officials have long been skeptical of any kind of Space Force, most have spoken vaguely, if at all, about the proposal..“We understand the president’s guidance,” the Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in June. “Our policy board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”“We’ll see where it takes us,” Brigadier General Tim Lawson, the deputy commanding general for operations at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command said. “Do we want to be part of the space force? That is yet to be determined.”Cover image: General atmosphere at the breakfast at 2018 Great New England Air and Space Show Media Day at Westover Air Force Base on July 13, 2018 in Chicopee, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)