Trump Space Force 'a Case of Political Ego' - Professor

© Courtesy of the US Air Force Space CommandA ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force is rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41.
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force is rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41. - Sputnik International
The US Space Force proposed by President Donald Trump would cost between $1.4 billion and $3.2 billion to establish and up to $1.5 billion a year to pay thousands of employees and cover overhead, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in a report released on Thursday.

The Space Force would require 5,400 to 7,800 management positions on top of about 22,900 service members and civilians transferred from other branches of the US military, the report said. In February, Trump signed a directive that centralized all military space functions under a Space Force division within the Air Force.

Trump administration officials called the decision a step toward eventually creating a sixth branch of the US armed forces, which would require Congressional approval.

Sputnik has discussed the issue with Dr. Gbenga Oduntan, Associate Professor of International Commercial Law at the University of Kent.

Sputnik: The Trump administration’s proposed plan to create a new Space Force could increase annual Pentagon costs by nearly $2. How likely is that the Congress will approve this budget?

Gbenga Oduntan: Perhaps we should start from the fact that the Congress has always been much more reluctant to go along with the very ambitious routes that the current president is embarking on.

The US Congress has been quite correct in its analysis that their entire plans will be too expensive. This is why they quietly abandoned earlier versions of the plan of a space force.

An Atlas V rocket launches the Navy's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) 2 satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station - Sputnik International
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And it’s only the Trump administration’s new ideology that has led us down this route. So yes it’s very possible it’s not going to pass congressional scrutiny and it shouldn’t actually.

Sputnik: Russia and China have previously condemned these plans. How can this influence space cooperation between the countries?

Gbenga Oduntan: The plans of this specialist space force by the Trump administration is simply a case of political ego trip from the understanding of most analysts.

It's unnecessary, although it's quite true, that there is a growing use and reliance on space for national security by many states — and that space can be used to deceive, disrupt and deny or degrade enemy satellites or other space systems.

The threat certainly has not reached this stage, that we should have this strange contraption of a space force in the US that costs anything in the region that we're discussing.

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Yes, it's also about for international relations, because of the risk of contagion, as I said, the threat is not there…A recent study that came out of the US, done by publication of an organization known as the ‘secure world foundation', came to the conclusion that, in respect to China, for instance, there's no evidence of China actively using counter space capabilities in current military operations.

Similar things can be said of Russian presence in space, of Indian presence in space, of the BRIC nations — we need to keep an eye on what all the new emerging powers are doing and they're increasing their presence in space. But that comes out from a natural progression of life not because there's any accentuated risk certainly not of the sort worth kicking off a new space race; in terms of arms race in space.

So yes if Russia has been reaching out to the world, to the US for cooperation in space, that falls in tradition of space activities which is that of cooperative, peaceful use. This is also a mandate of space law as well as common sense. Whether the US will tactfully draw back from this precipice that they’re taking the world is something we should wait to see.

We’ve been here before the Ronald Reagan administration was going down the route of the ‘star wars’, and then common sense prevailed. After a few decades, we had son of ‘star wars 2’ by George Bush, which also died a quiet death.

The 45th Space Wing supported NASA’s successful launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 22, 2016. The rocket carrying Cygnus cargo vessel OA-6 is a resupply mission to the International Space Station supporting NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program. - Sputnik International
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I would predict that in light of many national problems that the US has in terms of fighting poverty, providing quality education for its citizens, healthcare — I would predict that other rational forces, other rational authorities would push us away from this wasteful venture that the Trump administration is embarking on, which I think is no more than ego trip.

But if they do go ahead with that, then one of the many implications, apart from wasting the funds that would have been used for more useful thing for the US population — one of the downsides that will happen, like I said, there’ll be a risk of contagion — other states will now have to increase their budgets, they will now have to intensify their military operations or military plans for space.

And there lies a big problem. This is why, perhaps, we can all urge the nations to move towards the Proposed Prevention on Arms Race Treaty — so-called PAROS Treaty – preventions of an arms race in space treaty, which has been discussed for quite a number of years now before the Conference on Disarmament in the UN…

We hope that this treaty will eventually come into force very quickly. And that it will preserve space for peaceful uses and will prevent state parties, which we hope will include already emerging space powers and already what we have as a main space powers, to prevent them from using outer space as a means of placing weapons in orbit, installing weapons on celestial bodies, kinetic energy that is of an attacking mode; all these things threaten to use force against objection space and from space to objects and peoples on Earth.

Definitely not the direction we should be heading and we really hope to stop. There are so many benefits that come from outer space exploration – unbelievable amounts of resources, endless things that we can use from outer space. To divert our energy, our collective energy, into a false space race, or space arms race would be terribly disappointing.

And I do hope that it’s not the route we should be taking.

Sputnik: How dangerous could the outcome be of the renewed competition in space?

Gbenga Oduntan: It’s always easier to destroy than to build. The progress we’ve made in outer space technology – we tend to forget it. I’m speaking to you now probably using some form of satellite technology or the other; we can look at each other real-time – our entire world is wired through space right now.

A Pentagon artist's concept of a ground / space-based hybrid laser weapon, 1984 - Sputnik International
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That took decades to build. In one single instance of madness, the entire network of communication satellites can be disrupted or major parts of it; lives will be lost as a result. And that’s just destruction of satellites.

If we have a full on space program, which leads to ballistic missiles been launched, or kinetic energy is used to destroy objects on earth or in space and fragments of satellites which have become causalities of attack are floating in outer space — to imagine the emerging chaos — it’s just too depressing to contemplate and this is one of the reasons why I do hope we are not going to get there and I think we are not going to get there because there’s something very special about space from the very beginning — which is scientists usually tend to be men of peace; they’re not usually focused on politics as much as bureaucrats and statesmen are.

So one of the good things about space technology is that science men and women who are focused on space, tend to want to focus more on the peaceful uses and opportunities. If this continues we wouldn’t be going down the doomsday scenario which of course, like you very rightly mention, can happen.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr. Gbenga Oduntan and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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