Last month, not long before boarding a plane to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas, President Donald Trump signed legislation that created the newest military branch in the United States in more than 70 years: the Space Force.
Between the holiday season and more pressing military news, the creation of the Space Force did not initially make a big impression. But the president seems pleased with his newest armed service. “Everybody’s excited about that,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Ohio last week. The crowd responded with boisterous chants of “U-S-A.” Vice President Mike Pence celebrated “America’s heritage as the world’s greatest spacefaring nation” yesterday, as he swore in General Jay Raymond as chief of space operations. The new organization even has its first controversy: Over the weekend, military officials brought a Bible to the Washington National Cathedral to be blessed for swearing-in ceremonies of Space Force officers, raising objections about the coziness of Church and state.
But what will the Space Force actually do?
Trump has pushed for the creation of the Space Force since the spring of 2018. But the version that became law isn’t exactly the one he might have in mind. Yes, the law, part of a larger defense-spending bill, established the Space Force as the sixth branch of the American armed forces, but it is not the stand-alone organization that Trump seemed to have promised, a “separate but equal” entity alongside the Air Force—a problematic framing for different reasons—the branch historically responsible for defending the country’s space interests.