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KT edit: Trump opens one more political front with US Space Force

Filed on December 22, 2019 | Last updated on December 22, 2019 at 06.57 pm

The force will not be built from scratch but will have personnel from the US Air Force.

With the creation of the Space Force, the sixth and smallest branch of the US military, the Trump administration could be raising the stakes in a sphere once dominated by the United States. The establishment of the force has for long been a cherished dream of the US President that will not just defend American interests and satellites in orbits but could also be used for offensive capabilities like shooting down enemy satellites. The force will not be built from scratch but will have personnel from the US Air Force.

 However, the timing comes at a critical moment for the White House that is busy shaking off perceived damage caused by impeachment proceedings against the president in the House of Representatives. A US Space Command is already operational and has a wider remit that includes cyberspace. This force is expected to promote and protect America's interests specifically in outer space, a sphere where every global major power and corporation is exploiting to their benefit.

How much aggressive intent will be built into the new Space Force is difficult to speculate at this juncture. But this force reminds the world of what was dubbed the 'Star Wars' programme of the eighties when then US president Ronald Reagan considered deploying missiles in space to bring down Soviet long-range Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. Experts spoke of space going nuclear but the project failed to take off due to the exorbitant costs and also because the Cold War became history. President Donald Trump initially envisaged the Space Force on a much grander scale with bigger budget. The administration will now get $40 million for 2020 instead of the $72 million it had sought to make America's presence felt in space. And not just presence, if it is dominance that the United State seeks, it could lead to skirmishes with powers like China and Russia who have robust and ambitious space programmes. There are other European and Asian powers like France and India that the United States must contend with for orbital supremacy but that will depend on whether President Trump intends to take that route to establish the US as the sole superpower it once was.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper has already signalled US intentions on a larger role for this force. The immediate task, however, would be to defend critical US navigation and communication satellites in outer space in the event of a conflict between powers here on earth. Communication is vital in the digitally connected age and no country would want its satellites knocked out by the other. For Trump, this force will help him score some political brownie points as he begins his Christmas break and heads into the New Year.


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