MAY 2, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump has underlined his desire to militarize space and introduce an American “space force.”
Speaking at the White House while receiving the West Point football team, Trump said he wants America’s five military branches to become six, CNN reported.
Trump told the cadets, “You will be part of the five proud branches of the United States Armed Forces—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard,” upon completing their studies. “And we’re actually thinking of a sixth, and that would be the Space Force,” the president added.
“We’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force,” he said.
In March, Trump called space “a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” while speaking to troops in California. “We may even have a Space Force,” he told the audience. The sci-fi concept gained traction with some members of Congress, but military leaders were more guarded on the prospect.
Alabama Republican Mike Rogers wrote on his personal website, “I am thrilled that the Space Corps idea is gaining traction at the White House.” Rogers, who is also the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he had been working with colleague Jim Cooper—a Democrat from Texas—to push the need for a new service under the command of the Air Force that would focus on space.
“Russia and China are surpassing us in space capabilities and we need to dedicate a separate force solely with a space mission,” Rogers claimed. “The future of war will be fought in space, and we must stay diligent and ahead of other countries for our own national security.”
The proposal pushed by Rogers and Cooper was removed from the final version of the $700 billion defense spending bill signed by Trump in December. The plan met with opposition from Senate and Pentagon leaders who believe the idea needs more consideration. Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis told CNN that the military is “conducting a space organization and management review led by the deputy secretary of defense.”
But Trump’s sci-fi vision goes against the spirit of international law, even if it is not technically illegal. The United Nation’s 1967 Outer Space Treaty was signed to prevent the Soviet Union and U.S. militarizing space to gain an edge over one another during the Cold War, and defines outer space as the “province of all mankind,” stressing its use “for peaceful purposes” is in the common interest of all humanity.
The agreement prohibits testing weapons in space, basing weapons of mass destruction in orbit and establishing military bases or other installations on the Moon or other “celestial bodies.”
The United Nations has considered introducing new, updated legislation to dissuade nations from militarizing space, but that has not stopped states developing technology that would take war beyond the skies. China, Russia and the U.S., for example, have all been working on anti-satellite missiles which could cripple an opponent’s communications and surveillance capabilities in the event of war.
Even if the great powers begin to militarize space, it is not clear who could stop them. The Outer Space Treaty has no enforcement mechanism, and the U.S., Russia and China all carry veto power on the United Nations Security Council, allowing them to block any substantial resolution.