Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman and a leading proponent in Congress of establishing Space Force, said Friday in an exclusive interview with Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Daily that the United States needed a Space Force to meet the threats posed by China and Russia in space.
“We are dead serious about meeting this threat from China and Russia. People have to understand that we have become heavily dependent on space to fight and win wars, that’s our eyes and ears for the military. China and Russia want to be able to take our eyes and ears out, and we can’t let that happen. We have got to get back in the position of space dominance,” he told Breitbart News Daily host and Breitbart News Deputy Political Editor Amanda House.
“When it comes to these satellites, we’ve got to be able to move agile and move quickly. And by the way, many people don’t realize this, but China set up their own separate space service a year and a half ago, and Russia reorganized before that — we are way behind the curve on it.”
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday at the Pentagon announced that the Trump administration intended to stand up the Space Force as a sixth branch of the armed services by 2020, and is immediately taking steps to do that. Congress will need to provide statutory authority and funding in order to complete the process. He also released a Pentagon report outlining recommendations and next steps.
Defense experts are divided over whether a new branch of the military needs to be created. Proponents of a new branch say the status quo — of leaving the Air Force in charge of military space missions — is inadequate, and opponents say creating a new branch will distract from the mission in space, and only create more bureaucracy.
Rogers said a Space Force is overdue:
“We started noticing about three years ago some real deficiencies in our capabilities particularly in relation to Russia and China who have become much more aggressive. And the more we looked at it, the more it became painfully apparent that we were not going to be able to meet the challenge of this new threat with our current structure, which currently has 90 percent of our national security space assets in the Air Force. We have a little bit in the Navy, a little bit in the Army, but most of it in the Air Force.
“And [the Air Force is] just geared towards air dominance and space is just a subordinate mission. So the more we studied it, the more it became obvious that we were going to have to make this change just like the Air Force had to evolve out of the Army, the Space Force is going to have to evolve out of the Air Force. Because we need a service, because space has become so important to our ability to fight and win wars, we have to have a service that’s dedicated to space dominance and builds a culture of excellence when it comes to that mission.”
Rogers suggested that separating them into a new service was to create a new culture of success in space, that was not being achieved in the Air Force. The new service would have their own budget, their own culture, their own promotion system, and their own educational system within the Air Force Academy.
“The fact is, it’s always been starved to death in the Air Force,” Rogers said. “It’s always been a budget for the space mission that they wind up dipping their hands in to boot money over to buy more bombers or buy more fighter jets or whatever … the professionals in the air force who have gone into the space mission are not promoted at nearly the same clip as people who go into fighter pilot or whatever, it’s just a red-headed step child in the Air Force and it’s always going to be that way.”
“It’s not that they’re malicious, it’s just that they’re a service that’s dedicated culturally to air dominance and it should be — they’re the Air Force. But we have to have one that’s dedicated to space dominance.
Rogers said he did not expect it to be an expensive endeavor, since it would take existing active duty personnel in the Air Force, Army, and Navy who work on space, as well as subordinate civilians, and simply separate them into the new service.
“We don’t expect it at all to get too expensive because we’re going to use existing personnel,” he said. “We don’t expect a lot of additional overhead and we are not going to let this thing be bureaucratized like the other services have. In fact it’s our expectation because we’re going to be designing this and watching it from birth, we’re going to do everything we can to keep it from getting bloated and gold-plated, and turning into what we already have which is a very slow and lethargic bureaucratic procurement system.”
Rogers did not anticipate a lot of pushback from Congress on creating a Space Force. He said he and Strategic Forces Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) proposed creating a space corps a year ago, and it received unanimous and bipartisan support from the whole committee, and was supported by the House Armed Services Committee. He said it was the Senate that wanted to slow down on the initiative, resulting in a provision that called on the Pentagon to study the idea of a space corps.
“The House said, ‘We think we need this, so [we] ordered the Pentagon to study it and let us know if they agreed … the Pentagon decided, ‘Yeah we do need a Space Force.'”
He said the process of separating the service would happen beginning immediately and occur over the next five months. The Pentagon would then develop a legislative proposal on what was needed in statutory authority to finish the process. He said he and a senator would then introduce bills in January, and then roll it into the National Defense Authorization Act, which is yearly must-pass legislation that authorizes all Pentagon activities and programs.
Rogers said part of the difficulty in talking about the need for a Space Force is that information on the threats from China and Russia is largely classified.
“The threat that we have from Russia and China are classified, and people just don’t know how bad it is, but we have a real sense of urgency to get this done and get it done quickly,” he said.
He said back when President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative system in 1983, nicknamed “Star Wars,” that would build include space-based systems that could shoot down incoming Soviet missiles, critics argued against anyone developing an offensive capability in space.
“We played the good guys and didn’t. Well, China and Russia went ahead and did it,” he said. “Both Russia and China have developed offensive capabilities with their satellites, which basically means they can just shoot at or dazzle — basically paralyze — one of our satellites, so they could hit it and destroy, or they could make it ineffective temporarily or permanently. That is not acceptable.”
“People don’t realize that we use these satellites to command and control, for navigating. When we sent those cruise missiles into Syria, they’re guided by satellites, we use these things daily in our military activities, we have to have that capability,” he said. “We have to develop our own offensive capability so that they know to never even think about striking or tampering with one of our satellites because we would make them wish they hadn’t by destroying everything they’ve got.”
Rogers also commented on criticism over the Trump campaign arm soliciting ideas for a Space Force logo for Space Force-themed merchandise.
“That’s the campaign having some fun…letting some of his supporters take an initiative that Donald Trump has really made a reality and have some fun with it, and raise some money for the campaign,” he said.
“Their heads are going to explode no matter what Donald Trump does,” he said.
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