Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued a dire warning about space pirates Wednesday in support of appropriations to fund Space Force, President Trump’s proposed off-planet expansion of the U.S. military.
“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” said Cruz, the chairman of the subcommittee on aviation and space, adding, “Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”
For starters, the Trump administration is seeking $2 billion in new funding from Congress for the creation of Space Force. The new military branch is projected to number about 15,000, most of whom will be transferred from existing positions. In future years its annual budget could amount to an additional $500 million over the $10 billion already being spent on unclassified space programs, Defense News reported.
Although armed Somali pirates terrorized the waters off the horn of Africa a decade ago, their activity has diminished in recent years thanks to a robust military response from several nations, including the United States. Venezuela’s descent into political chaos is partly blamed for a rise in Caribbean piracy. Yet none of those threats possess the resources to — as yet — mount a credible threat beyond the confines of Earth’s atmosphere.
Nor is there any interplanetary commerce to present a lucrative target for pirates.
In February, Trump signed a directive ordering the Pentagon to establish Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. Months earlier, a super-PAC supporting the president asked supporters to vote on a new logo for the extraterrestrial troopers.
When Democrats retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives, however, the prospects for Space Force grew uncertain. In March, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, tried to temper Space Force expectations.
“It’s going to be different from what the White House proposed. Three more four-star generals are not going to make us stronger in space,” Smith said.
Even some of Trump’s Republican defenders have questioned the premise that America needs to create a new military branch and hand over jurisdiction of space and its pirates from the Air Force.
“It wasn’t on my list because I don’t think we need it,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., said. “Ever since this subject came up, I’ve said there are two things you have to answer. One is, is it going to do a better job than we’re doing today? And then two, it’s going to cost more — how much more money is it going to cost?”
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