NEWS
11/08/2018 10:54 BST

Donald Trump's Space Force Explained (And Yes, It's As Dumb As You Think)

"Then I said what a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”

Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
Defence Secretary James Mattis (R) introduces Vice President Mike Pence before he announces the Trump Administration's plan to create the US Space Force by 2020 at the Pentagon.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and a handful of the President’s supporters who are genuinely worried about “Space Isis”, are currently getting rather excited about the US’s new “Space Force”, due to be in place by 2020.

Thing is, nobody else seems too keen. In fact, nobody at all even seems to know what it is – only that it’s likely to cost “billions”.

Undeterred by the lack of an actual plan, Vice President Mike Pence stood before the nation on Thursday and gave a speech which highlighted the lack of an actual plan.

He said: “America will always seek peace in space, as on the Earth. But history proves that peace only comes through strength, and in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead.”

Sounds Like A Pretty Massive Project So It’s Been Well Thought Out, Right?

Absolutely not. The idea was first mooted as a joke, as shown by the following passage which is actually a thing the President of the United States said back in March.

“You know, I was saying it the other day, because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it Space Force. And I was not really serious. Then I said what a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”

This was then distilled down five months later to the much snappier:

But seriously, there is no detail at all about what Space Force will be – no costings, no structure plans, nothing except six potential logos and some plans to monetise it with merchandise that’s already been targeted at Trump’s supporters.

Inevitably, some alternative designs are already doing the rounds.

A Pentagon report released on Thursday did contain a bit of information, including interim steps toward the creation of such an organisation.

A unified combatant command known as the US Space Command would be formed by the end of 2018, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.

What Would A Space Force Actually Do?

Anyone hoping for a Death Star emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes and protected by Storm Troopers in MAGA hats will be disappointed.

Pence indicated during his speech that the Space Force would be responsible for space-based US military capabilities, including everything from satellites enabling the Global Positioning System (GPS) to sensors that help track missile launches.

Citing Russia and China, he said that for years US adversaries have “pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communication satellites via electronic attacks from the ground”.

Patrick Host, aviation journalist for military analysts, Jane’s, told HuffPost UK: “There is a consensus that the way Department of Defence (DoD) acquires space capabilities and performs its space war fighting needs, needs to be improved. 

“But Space Force is a little over the top - it’s going to cost so much money and I just don’t think they’ve done a great job explaining to people why this is necessary.”

Doesn’t Somebody Already Do That?

Yes, the US armed forces currently in existence. “I would say 90% of space capabilities in the Pentagon is the Air Force and the Army and Navy also dabble a little,” says Host.

Handout . / Reuters
The US Airforce's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

So Who’s Actually Going To Create It?

The job of actually making it a reality now lies with the Pentagon and they appear to be as flummoxed as everyone else right now.

Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, said on Thursday: “We haven’t put together a legislative proposal.

“My sense is we’ll put something like that together this year and it will probably look like this: Here are options. You could have something that’s very extensive. You could have something that’s medium [sized].”

Kinda Sounds Like They Don’t Really Want A Space Force...

They don’t but what the Big Man wants, the Big Man gets. “For the longest time the DoD was resistant to the idea, [Defence Secretary Jim] Mattis and the Air Force weren’t excited about it but the President is the Commander in Chief and the leader of the military so what he wants, they have to follow through on,” says Host.

What’s The Next Step?

“They haven’t created anything, the DOD can’t just create a Space Force, everything has to be approved by Congress,” says Host.

And asking Congress to free up billions of dollars for a Space Force and The Wall when the US is in the middle of a trade war won’t be easy.

Does Anyone Think This Is A Good Idea?

Trump and Pence obviously and Mattis has since come round but he probably doesn’t have much of a choice if he wants to keep his job.

Who Thinks It’s A Bad Idea?

Everybody else.

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, told MSNBC: “The only person that I’ve heard say this is a fantastic idea is the commander in chief, the president of the United States. Everybody else says it’s redundant, it’s wasteful.

“There is a threat out there but it’s being handled by the US Air Force today, doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic [Defence Department].”

Democrats have lined up to slam the project.

OK, So What’s The Verdict?

REASONS FOR A SPACE FORCE

1) Kanye

A surprise reason to get behind Trump’s initiative came on the Jimmy Kimmel show on Thursday when Kanye West said he was open to the idea of putting his design skills towards the project.

2) Space ISIS

Seriously, some trump supporters are worried about Space ISIS.

REASONS AGAINST A SPACE FORCE

There are numerous, most eloquently summed up by the good people of Twitter.

1) There Are Bigger Threats Than Space ISIS

2) There Are Bigger Issues In The US

3) Can You Really Trust This Man With A Multi-Billion Dollar Space Project?