The Problem with the US Space Force

February 11, 2021 (Gunnar Ulson – NEO) – The US Space Force (USSF) is the newest branch of the US Armed Forces. Its personnel are referred to officially as “Guardians” versus “soldiers,” “sailors,” “airmen,” and “Marines” of other branches. 

Regarding the USSF’s stated mission, its official website claims: 

The USSF is a military service that organizes, trains, and equips space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. USSF responsibilities include developing Guardians, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to our Combatant Commands.

Organized into various “Deltas,” the USSF is tasked with developing space doctrine, monitoring the space domain, overseeing space electronic warfare, manning missile warning systems, overseeing cyberspace operations, controlling intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and conducting orbital warfare 

The USSF’s “Delta 8” now operates the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) as part of carrying out satellite communication and navigation warfare. 

The concept of having a dedicated branch of the US Armed Forces monitoring the space domain for threats and developing capabilities to defend against those threats makes perfect sense, particularly at a time when space is becoming increasingly accessible and space-based capabilities for civil, economic and military applications become increasingly central to modern daily life.

Russia and China have their own services within their respective armed forces to do precisely this as well, with Russia having established the Russian Space Forces and China having created the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. 

The real problem with the US Space Force is not the concept behind its face-value creation or its stated mission, but with the inevitable abuse of this new branch of military service by the special interests that drive US foreign policy. 

Protecting America or Preventing Others from Protecting Themselves From America? 

When the US Space Force talks about protecting its GPS capabilities from attack, it is not talking about a Russian or Chinese attack on GPS capabilities over the United States to disrupt applications essential for daily life in America. 

It is actually talking about the disruption of GPS capabilities overseas in theaters of war the US is illegally involved in. 

The National Interest in a 2019 article titled, “GPS Jammed: Russia Is Messing with America’s F-35s,” would claim: 

Russian forces have been jamming GPS systems in the Middle East. The electronic-warfare campaign could affect U.S. forces gathering in the region in advance of potential strikes on Iran. 

“Since last spring, pilots flying through the Middle East, specifically around Syria, have noted that their GPS systems have displayed the wrong location or stopped working entirely,” The Times of Israel reported in late June 2019.

Syria is a nation the US has illegally occupied for years. This is in addition to its military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and, as the article points out, its planned military aggression against Iran, all nations thousands of miles from America’s shores, and all nations that pose no direct threat to the US itself. 

With the founding of the US Space Force in late 2019, and with the new armed forces branch overseeing America’s GPS capabilities, it is certain that stopping Russia or any other nation from disrupting these capabilities overseas will become part of its mission. 

Thus the US Space Force is not actually protecting the United States, its people or its economy, but actually playing a role in preventing other nations around the globe from protecting themselves and their allies from US military aggression in places like Syria and capabilities used to carry out that aggression like GPS. 

In the future, China will likely employ similar tactics to hinder the activities of the uninvited US military presence in places like the South China Sea and in or around the Taiwan Strait, and likewise the USSF will be utilized to prevent China from disrupting that uninvited military presence. 

New Branch, New Domain to Target China

The US aerospace industry’s ties to the newly established US Space Force is essential. 

Among the leading companies in that industry is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. 

It was interesting to see Musk interact with US Air Force Lieutenant General John Thompson during the 2020 Air Warfare Symposium, and in particular, the latter’s reoccuring concern over America’s ability to maintain a competitive edge over China. 

Musk described China as: 

…a real interesting country, I have to say. The thing to appreciate about China is just that there’s a lot of really smart, really hard-working people there. And they’re gonna do a lot of great things.

He also noted: 

The thing that will feel pretty strange is that the Chinese economy is going to be probably at least twice as big as the U.S. economy. Maybe three times, but at least twice. Yeah, so, that assumes a GDP per capita still less than the U.S. But since they have about four or five times the population, then it would only require getting to a GDP per capita of half the United States for their economy to be twice the size of ours. And as I’m sure people in this room know, the foundation of war is economics. 

And so if you if you have half the resources, of the counterparty, then you better be real innovative. If you’re not innovative, you’re gonna lose.

For Musk, it seems, it is not a matter of whether or not China would overtake the US, but a matter of how the US would remain competitive once it did. 

China is a geographically enormous nation and possesses the largest population on Earth. If allowed to develop, it will inevitably surpass the US economically as well as militarily. 

Remaining competitive doesn’t necessarily mean maintaining primacy. Yet by all accounts, from statements from the US military’s senior leadership to the corporate-funded think tank policy papers they echo in their talks, the US seeks primacy, not merely remaining competitive versus a larger and more powerful China. The US seeks to prevent China from ever becoming larger and more powerful in the first place. To do so will obviously involve the use of force, whether in the form of economic sanctions, trade warfare, hybrid warfare or actual warfare. 

And it will be in this vein that the US Space Force will seek to use its capabilities to achieve this as part of a continued campaign of political, economic and military pressure aimed at China, its allies and at its ongoing development and in turn, at its ability to surpass the US economically and militarily.

The US Space Force will be tasked not with defending space-based infrastructure, but ensuring others, particularly Russia and China, cannot be defended from it and its use in US military aggression abroad. 

And the orbital warfare capabilities the US Space Force is developing will not likely be used for defense or even retaliation as many would probably like to assume, but for the same sort of military aggression other US military branches carry out terrestrially.  

Thus, the concept behind the US Space Force is sound, but the current path of US foreign policy ensures that its actual mission will drift far from both this concept and its stated mission, potentially impeding its development into a truly capable defensive branch of America’s armed forces, and instead disfigure it into another appendage of modern American hegemony.  

Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.