Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Space Force Rekindles Rivalries of Old

     The decade after World War II saw a debate centered on the shape and scope of the roles and missions of the military services. These debates dealt with budgeting issues, overlap of responsibility and redundancy. Some argued for the dissolution of the branches of armed services to place them under one umbrella. This, some thought, would help to snuff out the interservice rivalries which were beginning to boil at the time due to nuclear weapons debates. Additionally, advocates for the abandonment of branches of service thought one unified defense structure would streamline efficiency and save with costs. Ultimately however the abolition of the free-standing military departments was rejected by leading experts  and Congress as a viable strategy to eliminate interservice rivalry and streamline efficiency.  Although significant differences remained, compromises regarding the services contended that if another service was ever created, combined experience and unity should emerge as its guiding ethos. Congress rejected the possibility that the American military would be held hostage to a system where one military department could alone control thought and theory, particularly where new frontiers of military activity occurred such as space. 

    Space Force changes all of this. Strategic space strategy and space warfare will continue to grow in importance due to all-service usage of space’s resources. The creation of the Space Force is concerning, particularly that lessons identified in the compromises of the 1940's and 1950's regarding service rivalries and redundancy have been forgotten. While Space Force has the potential to be a great addition to the U.S. arsenal of uniformed services, its creation brings with it an announcement by the United States that space is a domain. While this makes sense on the surface, land, air, sea, space, it has dangerous potential. Firstly, the United States has made the commitment not to weaponize space, which we have already violated but have now essentially publicly announced. Secondly, the control of space assets by one branch inherently breeds conflict with the aforementioned all-service usage of space based assets. Space, in my opinion is a tool more-so than a domain. Like cyberspace, all uniformed services need their own individualized access to space in order to complete their specific missions. Making the existing services have to walk through joint operations bureaucratic red tape in order to access mission critical assets seems like a recipe for disaster. While the unification arguments of old are not forgotten, the benefits of independent branches far outweigh their consolidation. However, too many branches will create conflict between them and lead to unnecessary and possibly damaging outcomes.  

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