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We’re coming up on the sixtieth anniversary of the old Soviet Union’s launch of its Sputnik satellite next month and the U.S.’ first successful launch of a satellite into Earth orbit in response one failed attempt and three months later.
Since then, the U.S. has been to the Moon, launched dozens of probes across the solar system and hundreds of satellites into orbit, pioneered reusable rocket launch technologies and operated orbital space stations.
But now, the U.S. Congress will be seriously considering whether or not the U.S. should officially add a dedicated “space corps” to the nation’s military.
Back in July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget bill for the U.S. Department of Defense, which in addition to increasing defense spending in the U.S. government’s upcoming 2018 fiscal year from $549 billion to $696.6 billion, would also officially create a space corps as a new branch of the U.S. military.
But although that bill passed the House with a 344-81 super majority, the U.S. Senate has different ideas on what the priorities of the U.S. military should be. Last week, the U.S. Senate passed its first budget bill for a government department for the U.S. government’s upcoming 2018 fiscal year: the National Defense Authorization Act, which upped the amount of planned defense spending for 2018 to more than $700 billion, but without adding a space corps branch to the U.S. military. Instead, the U.S. Senate has, with an 89 to 8 super majority, proposed establishing a new chief information warfare officer position to improve the nation’s ability to both conduct and respond to foreign cyber attacks.
With the Senate’s action, the bill will now go to a House-Senate conference committee that will iron out differences between the two bills before the full Congress will vote on a single bill that will spell out how the DoD will spend U.S. taxpayer dollars. Whatever makes it into that final version of the defense budget legislation is what the U.S. will go forward with, so whether the U.S. military adds a space corps branch or a new cyber-warfare bureaucracy to its arsenal of resources will likely get decided in the next several weeks.
Traditionally, the U.S. Congress would act to spend even more and do both things, but with limited resources and political support, lawmakers may have to choose one or the other in the FY2018 defense budget bill. If you were one of those lawmakers, which option would you choose to meet the country’s impending defense needs? Does America’s military need to form a space corps or does it need to set up a cyber-warfare position in the Pentagon in 2018? Should it do both? Or neither?
If you’re an elected member of the U.S. Congress, what is the cost to you for going to all that trouble and still getting the answer wrong? If the answer to that question is “zero”, then Washington D.C. has bigger problems with how it sets its priorities than choosing between a space corps and a information warfare officer for the 2018 defense budget.