The nation’s newest branch of the military has announced that it expects to nearly triple its forces next year.
According to Stars and Stripes, the Space Force, established in December 2019 with the strong backing of President Donald Trump, aims to expand from 2,400 active-duty personnel to 6,200 by the end of 2021.
The Space Force was created to increase the nation’s capabilities when it comes to the construction and operation of space vehicles, rockets and satellites, according to Forbes. Additionally, it’s charged with more familiar projects, such as the nation’s global positioning system and weather satellite program.
There is also a national defense component. The head of the agency, Gen. John Raymond, told Defense.gov in November that the United States needs to keep up with the threats Russia and China present to our nation’s interests.
“I think there’s a realization amongst nations that access to space is no longer a given,” Raymond said. “We’ve got to make sure that we stay ahead of this growing threat.”
He said the two countries already have flashed some menacing warning signs at the United States, such as interfering with signals to and from our GPS and communications satellites.
So it can be better prepared to take on missions regarding national security, the Space Force has created a unit dedicated solely to orbital warfare. It includes the secret experimental X-37B spaceplane, an unmanned spacecraft attached to a military unit known as Delta 9.
The Space Force, up to now, has depended on personnel from the Air Force to grow its ranks. Raymond said he was looking to the Navy and elsewhere to recruit personnel.
As to what those who serve in the force will be called, that question was answered this month by Vice President Mike Pence: Space Force troops will be called “guardians.”
Happy 1st Birthday to the @SpaceForceDoD Guardians! It’s exciting to see what you have done so far and @NASA looks forward to continued collaboration on our human spaceflight mission support, emerging space transportation, scientific research and much more! pic.twitter.com/uQnuGLcG1N
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) December 20, 2020
Space Force is also taking on new recruits. It recently added 86 cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy and will be adding another 98 this year.
The sixth branch of the military also has two new bases to call its own. Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, former Air Force bases on Florida’s east coast, are now up and operating as Space Force facilities.
The Space Force announced earlier this month that it has taken over three separate commands from the Air Force. Space Operations Command, Space Systems Command and Space Training and Readiness Command will move over to Space Force. The various commands will take over the job of working with acquiring systems from the private sector, space operations command and training.
Besides building up its active-duty force, the agency is looking to set up a Space Force Reserve component early next year, Stripes reported.
More than 1,000 National Guard personnel already are dedicated to space-related work, and Raymond said he depends on those forces as well as reservists “very heavily” for missions such as operating space-based sensors and protecting American space-based assets.
“We’re going to continue to rely on those [Guard and Reserve] assets into the future,” Raymond said. “We think we’ve come up with a really innovative approach. … I have told the team, we have an opportunity to be very bold — not just wedded to how we’ve done business in the past, and we think we’ve got a way ahead [for a Reserve component ] that’s going to be very, very valuable to us.”
What will become of the Space Force in a Joe Biden administration? While the presumptive president-elect has not addressed the matter yet, most believe the agency will survive.
A collection of far-left groups wrote a memo to Biden last month urging him to fold the Space Force.
SpaceNews, which obtained the memo, reported that the progressives called the branch an “unnecessary bureaucracy” that has its focus on “militarization rather than cooperation in space.”
However, there are two key factors that favor the agency staying put.
First, the creation of the Space Force was made possible by an act of Congress. It would take a similar act to get rid of it.
Second, according to The Hill, there is bipartisan support for it. While more Republicans than Democrats voted for the enabling legislation, many Democrats supported the effort, and Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Kentucky, was one of its architects.
“I hope the next administration understands the need for a Space Force — which was in the works long before Trump got on board,” Cooper told The Hill.
Some experts believe it would hurt America’s interests if it was shut down.
Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill we depend on a lot of the things the branch currently provides.
“If you eliminate it, you’re going to eliminate things like GPS, missile warning satellites, all of these things that the military has come to depend on and our economic security has come to depend on,” Harrison said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.