The talk among some commentators on America’s defense, furthered by the comments of the president of the United States, is that America needs a new military service, entirely devoted to wartime and peaceful operations in space. It is a brilliant idea which possesses all sorts of possibilities. What a wonderful opportunity this would present in a time in which entitlements are increasingly siphoning funds away from other federal expenditures. A whole new service, my goodness, the opportunities seem extraordinary!
Well, what might a new service require? Certainly, a service chief and a deputy service chief, both four-star generals, would be the first requirement.1 And then a whole staff of lieutenant generals, major generals, and brigadier generals, supported by innumerable colonels and lieutenant colonels with a few majors and captains thrown in to do the paper work—whoops, I meant to say computer support stuff. But our staff needs have hardly begun, because in this wonderful joint bureaucracy that Congress and the services have so carefully crafted into organizations that are expeditious and imaginative, we will need space officers at high ranks assigned throughout the joint commands, with some of them even taking the highest places, when it is their turn. And there will have to be large numbers of officers required to liaison with the other services.
The space service itself will require a large bureaucracy of officers and civil services, so that it can compete in Washington for its share of the defense budget. Beyond that structure, it will have to have an even larger procurement and acquisitions bureaucracy to run complex programs with the same level of success that the joint community and the services have achieved with the Joint Strike Fighter. Unfortunately, there will be some added cost in adding new bureaucrats and serving officers to the department of defense’s bureaucracy, but rest assured the nation will get a substantial return on its investment.
One must remember that in a highly technological service, the new service will require far fewer enlisted personnel than is the case with the other services: only the enlisted personnel required to plug in computers, take away a few waste paper baskets of an all computerized force, monitor the computers late at night, and bring the commanding general her coffee will be needed. The fewer enlisted personnel, then, the fewer discipline and other problems. It all really sounds like the new service will come close to the idealized academic dream, realized at All Souls College at Oxford, in which there are only academic fellows and no students: in this case a military service with few enlisted people.
The new service will definitely require its own brand-new academy. The design of the new academy will, of course, require considerable effort, while the location will throw the state governors into a dizzy of anticipation as to where it is going to be located—namely their own state. Equally important will be the creation of the uniforms for the new cadets, probably now called space people. We will have none of the boring designs of the uniforms at West Point and Annapolis, fixated as they are on the tradition of the ancient past.
No, like the air force academy at its inception, the uniforms of which, rumor has it, were designed by Darryl Zanuck, we will need uniforms looking into the future that will catch the imagination of the American people. Those uniforms might best be created by those wonderful people at Nike, who are now, with the help of ESPN, designing new football uniforms for college football teams, uniforms that have nothing to do with the past histories of those institutions. And yes, the new service academy will require a football team so that it can compete with the other service academies and thus further jointness throughout our military.
Finally, the new service academy, like the service that its space people will serve, will require an intensive focus on engineering and the sciences. There will certainly be none of that nonsense of learning from the past by studying military history, strategy, or human cultures. Rather, the new service with its focus on the future will, emphasize that its purpose is both to defend the United States, but equally to “go where no man has gone before”—whoops, I meant to say where no space people have gone before.