President Donald Trump recently directed the Defense Department to create a Space Force, which would be a sixth branch of the military. It isn’t likely to happen soon. Congressional action would be needed.

The main question is whether a Space Force is needed?  If one is created, should it be under the wing of the Air Force? Do we need a sixth military branch of the military? Would turf battles result between the branches if a new separate military branch is created?

Another question is, are we far enough along in our space exploration to be the first country to have a Space Force? Do we have the capabilities needed to have a Space Force? What would be the cost? 

In a commentary in The Wall Street Journal, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brooking Institution argues that there is not a separate submarine force even though the depths of the world’s oceans may come close to what we have in space. We don’t have a special jungle force although the jungles are massive in size.

Previous proposals for governmental reorganizations after 9/11 should counsel caution in moving forward with a Space Force, O’Hanlon warned. He gave as examples in our intelligence field when 16 agencies were put under the newly established office of the Director of  National Intelligence. It took almost a decade for that reorganization to work. The new Department of Homeland Security created some chaos, O’Hanlon said, and really didn’t improve the performance of the agencies under its umbrella.

It is apparent that to build a Space Force, the new branch would have to be built around the Air Force, which already has the primary responsibility of space launch operations. The Air Force is modestly sized today, and it wouldn’t be wise to downsize it any more. Satellites would be a factor in the planning for a Space Force.

We assume the Defense Department will launch a study into a Space Force. If it comes, it is years, or decades, away. It doesn’t appear to be feasible at this time. Look how long it took for the Air Force to become a separate branch. It was part of the Army from World War I to the late 1940s when it became a separate branch.