If the far-left wing of the Democratic Party gets its way, the Space Force will come crashing down.
“Nearly three dozen progressive groups have appealed to President-elect Joe Biden to fold up the new Space Force and cancel major weapons, impose a cap on private contractors, and prohibit lobbyists from filling top Pentagon positions, according to a detailed blueprint sent to the transition team,” Politico reported Tuesday.
SpaceNews, which also obtained the memo, reported that “a group of progressive and anti-war organizations” labeled the Space Force — created under President Donald Trump — as an “unnecessary bureaucracy that costs $16 billion in 2021” that has its focus on “militarization rather than cooperation in space.”
The outlet noted that the $16 billion Space Force budget was taken from the existing Air Force budget.
Sarah Mineiro, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, pointed out that the Space Force was formed in legislation approved by a Democrat-led House majority.
“Support for Space Force has been both bipartisan and bicameral and is unlikely to be eroded by the demands of this group of progressives,” she told Space News.
“Surely the Biden administration will have more pressing legislative priorities than this in the context of COVID, the economy, and domestic priorities,” Mineiro said.
She derided the progressives’ memo as an “obligatory wish list.”
“Necessary public messaging but impractical for implementation,” Mineiro said.
Others also said any attempt to end the Space Force is unlikely to succeed.
“If Space Force did not already exist, I think Joe Biden probably would not create it. However, I think it’s pretty unlikely that Biden would seriously try to eliminate Space Force at this point,” David Burbach, associate professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, told SpaceNews.
Joshua Huminski, director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence and Global Affairs’ National Security Space Program, said regardless of how Biden feels about the Space Force, the idea preceded Trump.
“I think the important thing to consider is that the intellectual foundation of the Space Force existed well before President Trump — the need for a separate culture, space as a warfighting domain, and the threat from Russia and China on orbit,” Huminski said. “That foundation, those needs, and the mission and threat will continue on and perhaps accelerate into President Biden’s administration, so you may see more constancy than immediate change.”
“President Biden can set the tone, for sure, but Congress will ultimately have the final say,” he said.
Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told Military.com that space might not be a Biden priority as it was with Trump.
“Whereas under the Trump administration, national security space, commercial space and civil space, were getting a lot of high-level attention — in some cases, maybe some micromanagement — now, [these entities] will largely be left to their own devices,” he said.
But even if it is no longer a major talking point, the Space Force will remain, he said.
“A new administration can’t just get rid of a military service anymore than President Trump could just create a new military service on his own — it takes an act of Congress,” Harrison said.
Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, said space deserves its own focus for sound defense reasons.
“Space is changing so dramatically based on what the Chinese are investing in, what the Russians are investing in … that I think we had to take some steps to make this a true profession of arms,” she said in September.
“We need to focus on growing a professional cadre of space thinkers, concept developers, writers, technologists and get on with really understanding how we’re going to operate and defend [U.S. assets] in space,” Flournoy said.
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