The U.S. military hasn’t added a new uniformed service in 70 years, when the Air Force was created in the aftermath of World War II.
If Congress gets its way, that will soon change.
In a bipartisan vote last month, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would direct the Defense Department to build a new “space corps” within the Air Force. Its backers blame the Pentagon for failing to prioritize space security in recent years, a lapse that has allowed rivals like Russia and China the opportunity to catch up to U.S. superiority. The proposal’s fate now rests in the Senate, but its most powerful foe is the military itself, which says Congress should simply send more resources rather than force it to undertake a bureaucratic overhaul during a time of war.
“The military has not done a good enough job looking after space with all its other distracting priorities,” said Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat who has championed the idea of a space corps along with Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, the chairman of an armed-services subcommittee in the House. “It’s just not getting the attention it deserves.”
Space has become as integral to military operations as it has for anyone who uses an iPhone to get directions through GPS or an up-to-the-second weather forecast. “Our military now is completely dependent on space,” said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “We can’t fight without fighting through space. When we put a bomb on a target somewhere in the world, did that bomb come from space? Not physically, but the bomb would not have gotten there without our space capabilities. So it is a space-enabled bomb.”