A boon or a boondoggle?
When I was a preschooler, one of my favorite Saturday morning TV programs was “Fireball XL5,” which followed the missions of spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of science fiction movies and series since then, but “Fireball” always held a special place in my heart. I was excited to share reruns with my son, and even more excited to hear that the United States is proceeding with plans for a Space Force – a military branch for protecting the nation’s interests beyond earth (satellite security, missile defense, mineral rights, unobstructed moon exposure for endangered werewolves, etc.)
If Congress is willing to fund the program (“You mean my platinum health insurance might be endangered if a mile-wide asteroid hits D.C.? Let’s fund the thing!”), the Space Force would be our first new armed service since 1947.
Despite my enthusiasm, I can understand why this leaves people with mixed emotions.
On one hand, it’s inspirational that today’s young people would have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor (so to speak) of a brand-new service.
On the other hand, it’s disheartening that a large percentage of civics-challenged citizens probably couldn’t name all the EXISTING armed services. (“Um, the Army, the Navy…the Junior Woodchucks…Hogan’s Heroes…the Baker Street Irregulars…that’s SEVEN. Okay, I’m math-challenged, too.”)
The proposed Space Force still faces a multitude of hurdles. One of the first necessities is to establish a military chain-of-command structure that would govern day-to-day operations and ensure integration with other branches. That way, when a Little Green Man orders, “Take me to your leader,” there wouldn’t be any confusion, other than “GREEN men? Are they privileged or not privileged? If the latter, are Frisbees a cultural appropriation of flying saucers?”
Another priority is drawing up rules of engagement that detail circumstances under which we would interact with enemies in orbit or on the moon. If we allow enlisted personnel too much leeway, we might hear, “Some Norwegian bureaucrat was ruining Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to The Moon’ on karaoke night. Prepare to target laser beams…”
We need to nip potential cost overruns in the bud. Admittedly, it was not encouraging to overhear a member of the military-industrial complex chortle, “In space, no one can hear you overcharge for toilet seats and hammers.”
Likewise, it worried me when preliminary budget talks were interrupted by shouts of “To infinity – and beyond!”
I’m sure recruiters could find lots of adventurous young men and women who would sign up for an initial tour of duty. Reenlistment might be a problem, once reality sank in with the starry-eyed dreamers. (“When they talked about serving on the moon, I thought we’d be filming it out in the desert somewhere!”)
Will the Veterans Administration be able to handle all the unexpected health issues that might arise? Will long waiting lists get even longer? (“When I first came to the waiting room with minor issues, I was Second Lieutenant Stanford, retired. Now I’m Spaaaaace Ghoooooost!”)
I hope you’ll remain vigilant, offer advice and generally do your part to make this work out for the good old U.S. of A.
Even Steve Zodiac might take a more nationalistic view nowadays. (“My one-world-government paycheck bounced again! Let’s dump those freeloading diplomats out the cargo bay and take the mayor of Gary, Indiana out for a Martian steak!”)
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”