Former astronaut Mark Kelly is not on board with Donald Trump’s plan to create a “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military, calling it a “dumb idea,” Fox News is reporting.
If Kelly knows anything about anything, it’s about these three subjects: the military, space, and politics. As for the military, Kelly spent 24 years in the Navy, including flying 39 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm. As for space, Kelly spent 15 years with NASA, a career that included Space Shuttle flights and a year on the International Space Station. And as for politics, he’s married to former Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and has himself considered a career in politics.
And in a Monday tweet, Kelly pointed out that patrolling space is already the job of the Air Force. Therefore, he says, there’s no need, as Trump suggests, for a “Space Force.”
“This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job. What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force?'”
Specifically, Kelly was referring to the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), the Air Force’s space-monitoring division. Headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, the Command employs 36,000 people at 134 locations around the world.
According to its website, the AFSPC was founded in 1982, and its mission is “to provide resilient and affordable space and cyberspace capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation.” More specifically, some of its duties include commanding satellites, watching out for space debris, and “maintaining space superiority is an emerging capability required to protect U.S. space assets.” Further, the AFSPC is also tasked with monitoring cyberspace for threats.
Mark Kelly’s opinion on the matter aside, Trump’s move to create a new branch of the military may be finished before it even begins. For starters, the move caught the Defense Department off-guard, as the DoD is already in the midst of conducting a study of the need for a space-devoted military branch; that review is due to be completed in August. It’s not clear if the Trump administration’s announcement is intended to influence or override that study.
Meanwhile, the creation of military divisions in a Congressional mandate, not a presidential one, and any budgeting or allocation of money for a new division would have to originate in Congress, not from the White House. It is unclear, as of this writing, if the Republican-dominated Congress intends to provide money for Trump’s proposed Space Force.