FOR THE WEEK OF SEP. 24, 2018
The U.S. Space Force could be a sixth military branch – if this bold idea gains altitude
Share two dramatic facts from science or technology news coverage.
Using the same article, tell what school subjects are vital for careers in that field.
The Space Force idea seems movie-like. How does another article or photo make you think of a book, film or song?
This sounds like a sci-fi plot, but a proposed military Space Force is a real-world idea from the Trump administration. It suggests reorganizing Pentagon space activities into a new armed forces branch. It'd be mostly a Defense Department reshuffling, not a big shift in using space for protection. An international treaty forbids weapons of mass destruction in space, but other military activities are allowed – such as surveillance, communication, missile targeting, threat tracking and navigation. Like pretty much everything in Washington, the plan – which needs congressional approval – sparks debate.
The White House last year began seriously considering a sixth military force, and President Trump in June directed the Pentagon to move forward on creating the first new military department since the Air Force was born in 1947 after World War II. (It joined the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.) The president and other backers see a tug-of-war in the Air Force between traditional military aviation and space operations. China and other countries are expanding military operations in space. A new U.S. armed forces branch, they say, would reinforce the image and reality of U.S. strength.
"With the rapid pace of innovation in the space domain, it will become increasingly critical to respond quickly to changing threats and opportunities," says an administration report. The idea makes sense to retired Air Force Col. Terry Virts, a past International Space Station commander, who writes in The Washington Post: "Now is the time to show leadership and vision by properly realigning our military with the reality that space is an essential and unique domain of modern warfare."
Skeptics say space-based threats are exaggerated. Creating the proposed force, they worry, may bring a global space arms race and boost the chance that conflict could spread to space. The necessary time and money could be better-used. "It is a poorly conceived, wasteful undertaking," writes Forbes magazine contributor Loren Thompson, a national security specialist. "America's military needs in space would be far better served by retaining the existing organization . . . and making modest adjustments to assure space challenges are met in a timely fashion."
Ex-astronaut says: "The United States must proactively ensure its ability to operate and defend itself in space — which is why Congress needs to act to finalize the U.S. Space Force as a sixth, independent branch of our armed forces." – Terry Virts, retired Air Force colonel and past commander of the International Space Station
Congressman says: "If we don't do something dramatically different, China and Russia are going to surpass us [in space]. And that's unacceptable." – Rep. Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala.
Critic says: "Every time Washington creates a major new organization, it gives birth to a bureaucracy that assigns high priority to protecting its interests and growing its budget. That is what will happen with the Space Force." – Loren Thompson, past deputy director of security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
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