It took a little less than a few hours for the memes to start populating on social media following Donald Trump's most recent speech calling for the creation of a 6th Branch of the U.S. Armed Forces called "Space Force." While many of us likely conjured up images stolen from Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" or X-Wing fighter pilots from Star Wars, this future space force will look quite a bit different.
Regarding warfare, Space is Air and Air is owned by the Air Force. Much like the Marines coming from the Department of the Navy, and the Air Force being born of the Army Air Corps. The future space force will likely, at least in part come from the current owners of the night sky, the Air Force. In fact, there already is a Space Command at Peterson AFB in Colorado.
But, back to the big picture, why is space significant? Satellites floating above the earth's surface regulate 99% of your daily life. Everything from the GPS in your car and your phone to spy drones carrying laser-guided munitions are controlled by satellites. Many of these platforms are legitimate military targets.
Logic would lead you down the path that if the United States is considering a "Space Force" then at least on some level, there is the future potential for a "Space War." And you wouldn't be wrong. In fact, the idea of a "Star War" dates back to the Reagan Administration. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, which would use ground- and space-based lasers, particle beams, missiles and other weapons to help protect the United States from attack by nuclear missiles. Eventually, the program was dismissed as it was considered, at least in part, a violation of the international laws governing space. But let's be honest, like all UN policy, its non-binding and 1st world nations continue to find ways around such guidelines when it suits them.
Our adversaries in space wouldn't be ISIS or Al Qaeda but rather the first world siblings we have never stopped fighting, namely the Chinese and the Russians. Our future space warriors will likely be tech nerds and satellite pilots who will control billions of dollars of machinery from their computers nestled in some mountainside, well protected from our international opponents' Deathstars.
The creation of a Space Force should, however, be a wake-up call to the rest of America, denoting who your real enemies are. As violent and horrific as terrorist insurgencies can be, the damage they cause is a drop in the bucket compared with the havoc that other first world militaries can wreak upon the United States. Comparative to 9-11, think about cities like Houston or New York City brought to a stand still by an attack on satellite supported networks that eliminate the infrastructure necessary to support basic life service. These are the types of attacks that our future space warriors will be charged to defend.