Space Force? Seems like job for the Air Force

All too often, bad ideas never really go away in Washington. Congress merely reduces taxpayer funding for them, without insisting they be abandoned. That may be the fate of President Donald Trump’s “Space Force.”

Trump envisions the force as an entirely separate, new branch of the military, added to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

He is correct that our national security requires a strong military capability beyond the atmosphere. Making it impossible for a potential enemy to control space is imperative. But the president’s idea of a new branch of the military is not the way to go. If anything, it could hamper U.S. capability in space.

A perennial problem at the Pentagon is controlling inter-service rivalry. No one can say how many billions of dollars have been spent to ensure that one branch of the military receives funding, and often equipment, its generals and admirals demand merely to keep up with what other branches are receiving.

Coordinating missions that involve more than one branch — which almost all do, these days — is another challenge. Creation of a separate space force would aggravate such concerns.

A more rational approach is to have the Air Force handle space missions. That is a natural extension of its current mandate to control the skies. It appears most members of the U.S. House of Representatives agree. A spending bill approved this week by the House reflects that. Trump had requested $72 million to begin establishing his Space Force. But the bill includes “only” $40 million for that.

Why not just thank the president for his concern with security in space — but say no thanks to his request for funding? The $40 million and, probably, even more during future years of Trump’s presidency, will be frittered away without making any real gain — like so many other government programs no one wants, but that not enough lawmakers have the political will to scrap.


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