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Pence Defends Space Force Costs: ‘What Price Freedom?’

Posted by Colin Clark on

Vice President Pence announces Space Command, Space Force at the Pentagon

WASHINGTON: It’s unclear how effective the gambit will be, but Vice President Mike Pence called out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, urging them to fund the nascent Space Force, which Air Force officials say will cost $13 billion for the first five years.

Pence, asked by a Washington Post reporter if the Space Force was worth it, offered this: “I would just ask my colleagues in Congress, what price freedom?”

The effort to create a Space Force took a step forward today as the National Security Council approved the administration’s nascent plan. My Space News colleague, Sandra Erwin, said the NSC plan “will be part of a new space policy directive, SPD-4, that will be sent to Trump’s desk for approval in the coming weeks.”

But the odds for the Space Force getting very far in the next few years aren’t great. Should the Democrats seize control of the House — not a prediction, just analysis — much of the steam is likely to come out of the push for a Space Force. Rep. Adam Smith, who would become House Armed Services Committee chairman, has said he does not think a Space Force is needed.

Rep. Adam Smith

Much of the impetus for the new military service has come from Rep. Mike Rogers, the GOP chairman of the HASC strategic forces subcommittee, who first floated the idea of a Space Corps at last year’s Space Symposium. And, more importantly, support from the Senate Armed Services Committee has been tepid. Without strong Senate support, it would be extremely difficult to get both language in a National Defense Authorization Act and funding in the defense spending bill. But we’ll have to see what the American people say next month.

Pence, whose grasp of the details of basic space policy seemed somewhat strained during today’s appearance, restated standard policy that the landmark Outer Space Treaty, which bars the use or stationing of weapons of mass destruction in the black eternal, did not need changing. On the specific topic of nuclear weapons, he said it’s “in the interest of every nation to ban nuclear weapons in space” but the Trump Administration would keep pressing ahead with “the idea the best protection comes from space through strength.”

Asked if the US would station weapons in space Pence said we “would defend American interests,” a pretty standard restatement of US policy, which contains deliberate ambiguity on the issue.

Air Force photo

NORAD space operations center


For insights about how the US military currently views the realities of space war, it’s helpful to consider the recently concluded annual Schriever War Game. These are the pinnacle of US military planning for conflict in space and, of course, most of the details are classified.

The 2028 scenario, not too surprisingly, focused on what is delicately referred to as “a global scenario with the focus of effort towards the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) Area of Responsibility.” To put it less politely: conflict with China.

The official Air Force Space Command release said the war game focused on:

  1.  examining how international partner capabilities can deter an adversary from extending or escalating a conflict into space;
  2. gaining insight into resiliency, deterrence, and warfighting through international partner synchronization of space and cyberspace operations;
  3. exploring various combined command and control (C2) frameworks to employ and defend air, space and cyberspace capabilities in support of global and geographic/regional operations;
  4. identifying the strategic and operational contributions of space and cyberspace in a multi-domain conflict; and
  5. exploring partnerships framed by a whole of governments approach (International, Civil, Commercial) to combined space and cyberspace operations.

It was a robust effort, with some 350 military and civilian experts from more than 27 US agencies, including the NRO, State and Commerce departments, and representatives from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

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