President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for a new space-focused military branch is apparently not widely shared. Two polls released today show that a majority—and in one poll, a majority—of respondents say Space Power is a bad idea.
The Trump administration plans to separate the Space Force from the Air Force and have it largely in place by 2020. The first step would be to create US Space Command-A joint command between the Pentagon similar to the Joint Operations Command and the US Cyber Command that will oversee the space activities of all the services – by the end of 2018. The Pentagon will also create a Space Development Agency that will draw military field research, development, and procurement out of the Defense Department’s current acquisition program. The agency’s goal will be to accelerate the development of the new space entity.
The Space Force program has been largely mocked, though some members of Congress have already expressed support for creating a space-focused complex. Concerns about anti-satellite technology being developed by Russia and China—and speculation that the Air Force is not focused enough on the space part of its mission, which is under Air Force Space Command— has supported some of the creation of a separate power. There have been similar discussions about building a U.S. cyber capability as well, although those discussions have been largely pushed back from the service departments.
In a poll conducted by CNN and SSRS on various policy issues, 37 percent of respondents said the US should create a Space Force, while 55 percent said the US should not. The CNN/SSRS poll is based on a sample of 1,002 Americans reached by phone.
An Economist/YouGov poll of 19,487 US adults worded the question a little differently and found that only 29 percent of Americans responded that the Space Force was a good idea; 42 percent thought it was a bad idea, while 29 percent were on the fence or expressed some other opinion.
Either way, the polls reflect broad ambivalence at best about creating a new military service. The Defense Department had directly opposed the idea of a Space Force prior to Trump’s announcement of his decision in June—but according to recent statements by Defense officials, this is mainly due to budgetary concerns. In a statement to reporters during his visit to Brazil on August 12, Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “I am not against establishing a Space Force. What I’m against is the rush to do that before we explain the problems. “