On July 3, 2019, as our U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans announced the color guard was about to present the colors, we were all surprised when an 89-year-old man bolted up on to the stage. While an 89-year-old wearing a 1970's wide American Flag tie can present quite a sight, we were all humbled to be in his presence. He immediately snapped to attention and saluted the presentation of colors. This was no run of the mill 89-year-old, you see, this was none other than the original ‘Buzz Lightyear’ of Toy Story fame. He also happened to be famous for being the second man to walk on the moon: Buzz Aldrin.
Since Buzz’s Moon landing 50 years ago, the U.S. has been complacent. What was once a country known for its space innovation and aeronautical research is now known for barely keeping up and sometimes falling behind. After years of being a global leader, the U.S. now spends its time scrambling to ensure countries like China don’t pass us by. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership on the issue, that’s finally changing. In February, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-4, which orders the Department of Defense (DOD) to establish Space Force by 2020. However, Congress will first need to pass legislation creating a new military branch.
In the recent U.S. threat assessment of China’s military, space is mentioned 86 times, highlighting the need for the U.S. to take this problem seriously. Unlike the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a space arms race with China would be much different given China’s economic capabilities and manpower. China is using modern day technology to build space systems created by the U.S. decades ago.
According to Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials, in February, it was reported that China’s military is training with missiles that have the ability to destroy satellites. DIA also reported that China would soon have a ground-based laser that would damage space-based optical sensors. This means China will have the ability to destroy satellites essential for early warning missile detection and weather reporting. It is also currently believed to have the capability to use missiles to attack satellites 22,000 miles above Earth.
This is why turning the idea of Space Force (which China already has) into reality is so important. Currently, space capabilities are spread out among all military branches. Creating Space Force would streamline the development of space systems for all space-related military operations. Similar to how the Marine Corps operates under the Department of the Navy, Space Force would be under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Air Force and have autonomy over its budgeting, planning and programming.
If created, DOD would consolidate all space missions and authorities under Space Force. According to military officials, this would take place over five years and using existing personnel across DOD departments. Although some critics argue this would come at too high of a cost, the reality is that 95 percent of Space Force’s budget would come from existing DOD budget accounts.
For FY2020, DOD requested funding for Space Force headquarters. I ask my colleagues to support this request, which will get us one step closer to establishing Space Force by 2020.
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