It’s been no secret that President Trump’s directive to establish a new branch of the American armed forces tasked specifically with space defense has had its critics within the Defense Department. While there seems to be no debate regarding the need for orbital defense, the conflict has primarily been focused on how to go about ensuring the security of America’s orbital assets without breaking the bank.
Those in favor of keeping space defense within the Air Force (which has notably included Defense Secretary James Mattis in the past, as well as Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson) contend that establishing a new independent branch would cost much more than simply allocating more funds to the Air Force to do the same job. Critics of the Air Force Space Defense initiative, however, point out that in recent decades the branch has repeatedly re-allocated funding meant for space to other things, particularly ordnance and upkeep for ongoing combat operations tied to the long-standing Global War on Terror.
Now, rumors are swirling that President Trump is considering ousting the Air Force Secretary, Heather Wilson, as a result of her pushback against the establishment of a Space Force. Thus far, no White House officials have corroborated these rumors on the record, but quotes sourced from an “unnamed insider” seem to suggest that it’s at least a possibility.
“Some senior officials know how to disagree with [the president] without being disagreeable to him. Heather Wilson hasn’t managed to do that. Her opposition to the Space Force has grated on him and I think he permanently sees her as troublesome and ineffective now,” an anonymous official from within the Trump administration reportedly told reporters.
To some, this move may seem like a bit of petty politics, with the Air Force apparently assisting in the effort to assess the best route to establishing a new branch despite a bit of public foot-dragging. However, there is evidence to suggest that it’s been Wilson, rather than Trump, that’s been using dirty-boxing tactics to garner political support in the space force debate.
In September, the Air Force released a report claiming to outline the cost projections of standing up the Space Force over the coming five years. All told, they estimated that the new branch would run the taxpayers about $13 billion, or the same approximate cost as the U.S. Navy’s USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. That $13 billion figure was then touted by Wilson in multiple statements and picked up by international news outlets — many of which used the figure to argue that the new branch is an ill-advised endeavor championed by a president that doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of such an initiative.