The US Space Force: is it cool as f or not? (March 21)


The gods of Public Forum have finally delivered a topic appealing enough to the geek in me that I’m— as opposed to the NSA— saddened to be teaching it for only a single month.


Thank you, Wording Committee.

It’s simple. It’s beautiful. It’s Space Force.


The Force, meant to compliment the Airforce, Navy and Army, branched off of the Air Force Space Command (AFSC) in December 2020, a bit more than a year ago as of now. Though long in discussion, Trump latched onto the idea as a cool political move (and, I mean, it is totally cool) and a savvy military one, to bring the focus of the nation and military to the Space domain.

 

Let’s start with the resolution: (on balance) the benefits of creating the USSF outweigh the harms. I don’t know why the word ‘creating’ needs to interfere with our innocent extraterrestrial topic— does the Committee discuss these things? Is it random? Does it matter? Do they want us to discuss political tradeoffs instead of space lasers? BORING.

Onto Uniqueness: do we need a Space Force?

Well, for the Pro team, of course we do. It helps to concentrate the space capabilities of the various armed forces. It will, as opposed to the AFSC, be better-equipped to defend our space assets (read: satellites), provide resiliency to our space capabilities (read: satellite stuffs), and adapt to the quickly-changing nature of the space domain.


The Con team might not be so, umm, cheery about the Force. Satellites, anti-sat weapons, the importance of space: none of this is new. We’ve had the former two since the 1950s, and the latter for at least a bit more than that. The AFSC has taken care of operations just fine, and given the importance of the space domain to the Airforce, Navy and Army, pulling experts from these branches into one place will drain the distributed space capabilities, making the Forces overall much less effective.


Ok, let’s link it up: Why is the Space Force important?


For the Pro team, we’ve got one main direction (aside from the politics of creation itself): 1. Satellites are important, 2. They’re under risk, and 3. The Space Force uniquely manages this risk:

  1. Satellites provide communication, imaging, and navigation. That means phones, internet, maps, land & water management, the entire financial system, GPS, and almost all tech companies (Amazon, Google, Ubereats!) rely on satellites. The military does as well: drones, missiles, smart bombs, troop movements, naval maneuvering and flight paths all are intimately connected to satellite services. There's many more reasons satellites are important, each of which could be its own contention.

  2. China & Russia have been testing anti-satellite weapons lately. This includes, in order of importance: cyberattacks, anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital weapons, and space lasers.

  3. See uniqueness above: we can't risk our Economic and Military preparedness, trusting in the good will of our enemies to not attack. We have to be proactive. The Space Force is how that’s done.

The Con team agrees with a few things— satellites are important, and they need to be protected. How they’re protected may be a whole other thing.

  1. First, we’ve been militarizing space since the first anti-satellite test in 1959, only two years after Sputnik was launched. This is nothing new, and the Space Force certainly doesn’t fix the problem.

  2. Second, no weapon has actually been used combatively in space. Only tests. The risks, therefore, seem a bit overblown.

  3. Third, the AFSC has worked fine till now. Once again: we’ve never had an incident.

  4. Fourth: creating the Space Force is provocative— it signals to the world that Space is a new fighting domain, and that could lead to more anti-satellite tests. Each of these tests makes a bunch of space debris, which can destroy spacecraft and satellites and render areas of space unusable.

  5. Fifth, Economic/tech impacts don’t seem to have any relation to the topic: even if China/Russia did attack (they’re our only ‘enemies’ with anti-sat capabilities), they’d go after military satellites— their main target wouldn’t be stopping your Ubereats driver from delivering your fajitas.

  6. Lastly, there’s a number of unique disadvantages, as we noted above: namely, the space brain-drain on the other military branches. Also, cost: the Force isn’t cheap. Also, arms treaties: the Space Force removes all our moral credibility— we can’t tell Russia to stop militarizing space if we just made a whole freaking thing called the Space Force.

 

You’ll notice that I didn’t discuss solar flares, asteroids, aliens, space colonization or bases on the Moon and Mars. It’s not because those things aren’t super cool. Please run with your cooler ideas. Especially aliens.


Have fun ya’ll.


p.s. we got a whole lecture on the Space Force on Youtube, alongside an expert interview with John Logsdon, Founder of the Space Policy Institute


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