In just over a year in the Oval Office, Donald Trump has proven that he really hasn’t changed much. That is to say, as president he has the same sense for the dramatic and propensity for outlandish statements that he long exhibited as a TV host and public figure. But in mid-March he put forth arguably one of his stranger ideas since becoming president of the United States. Specifically, he floated the idea of creating a “Space Force” to wage wars in outer space.
Frankly, it’s the sort of thing no one really saw coming, even from this administration. People have long speculated about some of the more outlandish things Trump might do as president. Some actually believed he would de-classify information related to alien contact, and in fact one site even posted a list of the “most insane bets” that were available for people speculating about the Trump presidency. On the list were ideas like infidelity, impeachment, incriminating videotapes coming out, or even Trump actually building his wall. Compared to those ideas though, the idea of a “Space Force” is particularly wild – and Trump himself seems to know it.
The president, in fact, admitted that the idea was initially a joke but became a more serious idea. While pitching it, he actually referred to space as “a war-fighting domain,” which is certainly a disputable statement unless perhaps we’re talking about the Cold War or Star Wars. And because we don’t actually have a need yet to wage war in space, the question is worth asking: what would Trump’s so-called Space Force actually look like, or mean?
The way Trump appears to imagine it, the idea actually means aircrafts and weaponry that can operate in space, either against opposing factions or against targets on Earth. And frankly, it’s not so outlandish to imagine something like this in the future. For now, however, there is simply no need – at least as far as public knowledge is concerned – for such a service. For this reason, some have warned that creating a military branch for outer space would be escalating the peaceful environment of space, potentially with national security implications.
A more realistic version of the idea was actually pitched last summer, however, and rejected by this administration. It was called Space Corps, and it appeared to be a pitch to separate and expand upon existing components of the national space program. For instance, we already use technology in outer space to handle GPS and satellite issues relating to military usage, and there are crafts that can alert the government quickly to missile launches on Earth. In other words, we’re already using space in the military as relates to preparation and defense.
So really we’re left with three possibilities related to this idea. One is that it just won’t happen and we’ll go on treating space operations the way we do now. Another is that the Space Corps legislation is revisited and we still keep doing what we’re doing, but there’s a whole new service created for it. And the third (and probably least likely) is that a more aggressive, space-based military wing is created to solve problems that don’t really exist yet.
In all likelihood this is something we don’t have to worry about. But it’s certainly an interesting thing to talk about (which, knowing this administration, was probably the whole point).