East-central Alabama is represented in Congress by a man named Mike Rogers, and Mike Rogers has an idea. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, he believes the United States could benefit from carving out of the Air Force a fifth armed service—the Space Corps, which would take a place alongside the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force itself. Just as the Marine Corps operates independently of the Navy yet reports to the Navy secretary, so the Space Corps would operate vis-à-vis the Air Force.
Thing is, the high-ranking women and men of the Air Force think that establishing a Space Corps is a terrible idea—so terrible that on Wednesday they evidently sought out journalists so they could talk on the record about just how terrible the idea is. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told journalists, according to Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr. of Breaking Defense, that “This will make [everything] more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. … I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff.” Her actual chief of staff, Gen. David Goldfein, told the scribes that “If you’re saying the word ‘separate’ and ‘space’ in the same sentence, you’re moving in the wrong direction. … The secretary and I are focused [on] how do we integrate space.”
So far, so good—Wilson and Goldfein’s arguments make a sound impression. But then they keep talking. “We’re in this transition period,” Goldfein says, from “looking at space [as] this benign environment in which you sense, monitor, and report, to a warfighting domain. … [W]e’re … trying to improve lethality and warfighting going forward… [Q]uite frankly, [Rogers’s proposal] would slow us down.” Wilson echoes the point: “[If] I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”
Well, heaven forbid the Air Force experience delays as it endeavors to improve lethality in space. Heaven forbid space be preserved as a relatively nonweaponized zone. Heaven forbid future generations be spared the task of disarming space. Better just to assume that space war is inevitable, and proceed with lethal preparations.
But back to Rogers. It doesn’t take much research on Alabama’s third congressional district to realize that two significant aerospace contractors—General Dynamics and BAE Systems—maintain operations within the district, in the town of Anniston. It doesn’t take much knowledge of Alabama generally to realize how many aerospace concerns are located in Huntsville, clustered around a NASA facility, an Army missile facility, and the like. (Huntsville is outside Rogers’s district but emphatically within the state.) Pardon the cynicism, but could this concentration of aerospace firms in a comparatively poor state bear any relation to Rogers’s enthusiasm for increasing the profile and independence of military space endeavors?