February 19, 2019, will be remembered as the day President Donald Trump revolutionized the aerospace industry. On that day, he signed the Space Force directive. The order outlines the president’s vision to establish the Space Force, a distinct branch of the U.S. military tasked with securing America’s future among the stars.
Critics were quick to condemn the directive as overly ambitious and unnecessary, arguing that the Trump administration shouldn’t waste resources pursuing such a foolhardy goal. Such criticisms, however, are dangerously myopic.
The era of space exploration is already upon us, bringing with it a bevy of potential security concerns as nations jockey for influence above earth’s atmosphere. China has already made significant moves to ensure a leadership position in the upcoming space race, and it is absolutely necessary that America follow suit.
In a White House press release announcing the establishment of the Space Force, Trump argued that “our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”
That is a message that the commander in chief has certainly taken to heart. While the Space Force is essential to protecting America’s military dominance, it is just one aspect of the president’s multifaceted approach to ensuring America’s continued international sovereignty.
The Trump administration is also prioritizing the work of NASA by providing it with an abundance of resources. On February 15, the president signed a budget deal that supplied the organization with $21.5 billion, nearly $1 billion more in funding than it received the year prior and almost $2 billion more than what it requested.
The increased funding is undoubtedly meant in large part to spur the development of space exploration. In fact, $926.9 million was specifically earmarked “to maintain an independent research and technology portfolio to support both science and human exploration programs.”
This funding comes on the heels of the president’s announced commitment to return Americans to the moon. A few months back, Trump directed NASA to lead a “sustainable program of exploration” into space. That starts with coming back to the moon.
The United States is set to return to the lunar surface within the next decade, an action that will not only mark a landmark human achievement but also signal to our adversaries America’s commitment to space exploration and spaceflight.
But the president’s strategy toward advancing American interests beyond Earth is more nuanced than throwing money at projects like Space Force and agencies like NASA. Trump’s administration is also streamlining its use of private sector aerospace contractors.
While the United States has long enlisted the services of independent aerospace companies to fulfill government contracts, it has often played favorites.
Following the Obama administration, for example, some argued that the aerospace company SpaceX was receiving preferential treatment in the contracts it received from the federal government. As an alleged donation bundler for Obama, SpaceX founder Elon Musk may have been able to cash in on his relationship with the previous administration.
Under Trump, however, the situation has changed. The current president is not beholden to any particular company. Trump embraces all contractors but only uses them when it is appropriate to do so.
It’s no secret that SpaceX has suffered some recent, high-profile setbacks. Whether it be missing deadlines, or rockets failing to launch, or having its certification re-evaluated by the government, Musk’s aerospace juggernaut has struggled to deliver reliable, consistent results.
Given SpaceX’s inconsistent track record, the Trump administration did not award the company with the coveted Lucy launch contract. The mission will send a spacecraft to visit numerous asteroids orbiting Jupiter but only has a three-week window to do so. As such, the mission is incredibly time sensitive; there is no room for delays or missteps.
While SpaceX’s business model has a place in the aerospace industry, it is up to the Trump administration to find the right contractor for the right job. And for the Lucy mission, NASA can’t afford to take a chance on SpaceX and potentially blow its opportunity.
The president’s multipronged approach to securing U.S. interests in space is an enormous victory for the American people. By authorizing the Space Force, properly funding NASA, and carefully utilizing each aerospace contractor, the Trump administration is making our space program great again.
And in doing so, Trump is broadcasting to the world that the United States will remain the pre-eminent geopolitical force, even as we expand outward toward the stars.
Jerry Rogers is the founder of Capitol Allies and the co-host of The LangerCast on the RELM Network. Twitter: @CapitolAllies.
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. The views and opinions expressed by the author are those of the writer and do not reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.