Congress just put an end to Space Cadets…for now
Congress will not be establishing the Space Corps as a new branch of the military this year, which means any chance of becoming a Space Cadet has ended, at least for now. CNN reports the new branch was eliminated during negotiations between the House and Senate over the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act:
The proposal, which was included in the House’s National Defense Authorization Act, would have set up a Space Corps in the mold of the Marine Corps, which is a separate military branch that’s housed within the Navy.
The authors of the idea argued that a separate and dedicated force devoted to space is needed to keep the US ahead of adversaries like Russia and China in the still-emerging domain of space war, arguing the Air Force is primarily devoted to fighting in the air, rather than space.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman who proposed the idea, has argued that the Air Force was prioritizing its fighter jets over space, and a dedicated service was needed to stay ahead of China and Russia in what many see as the next frontier of warfare.
The only good news is that the Senate version of the bill would have actually banned the creation of a Space Corps. At least this compromise leaves the swishy, sliding space door open for the future. The Hill has a bit more on what the Space Corps would have done:
Its duties, as described by the House-passed NDAA, would have been “protecting the interests of the United States in space; deterring aggression in, from, and through space; providing combat-ready space forces that enable the commanders of the combatant commands to fight and win wars; organizing, training, and equipping space forces; and conducting space operations of the Space Corps under the command of the Commander of the United States Space Command.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein opposed the plan.
Honestly, I’m not sure how practical this proposal was. The other branches of the military have real opponents to worry about, i.e. the Navy has Iranian ships and the Air Force has Russian fighter jets to deal with. It’s not clear who the Space Corps would be fighting in space. There’s no one up there except a few astronauts in the International Space Station who don’t seem all that threatening.
That said, you could justify this on the basis of cool uniforms and collectible paraphernalia alone. Whatever billions this new branch of the armed services was going to cost could be offset with a few trips to Comic-Con selling authorized bubble helmets and embroidered USSC patches.
And if the Space Corps ever gets some kind of ship—the USSS Heinlein let’s say—Revell would be printing money with plastic model kit sales. Sure, we may not need a Space Corps at this moment but there’s no denying it would be a more entertaining way to waste money than a lot of our current government spending.