[ The gap between the hype and the reality of the proposed new
branch of the military makes the project almost entirely an exercise
in misleading branding.] [https://portside.org/] 



 David A. Graham 
 August 10, 2018
The Atlantic

	* [https://portside.org/node/17882/printable/print]

 _ The gap between the hype and the reality of the proposed new branch
of the military makes the project almost entirely an exercise in
misleading branding. _ 

 President Trump announces the creation of a Space Force in June.,
Susan Walsh / AP 


Late Thursday morning, after playing a round of golf and firing off an
angry missive
[https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1027585937163931648] about
the Russia investigation, Donald Trump wrote this:

Space Force all the way!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2018

The tweet is a perfect synecdoche for the program in question: short,
punchy, and memorable, but ultimately substance-free. The Space Force
and the White House’s rollout for it are the most focused exercises
in Trumpian branding the nation has seen since the president took
office, a project reminiscent of Trump University. Trump is selling
the public one idea—a glitzy, pathbreaking new wing of
government—and giving it instead a potentially kludgy reorganization
of existing government functions.

Trump first announced the Space Force, which he says will be a sixth,
co-equal branch of the military, in June, when he signed a
space-policy directive. But that directive didn’t even mention the
Space Force, nor was it totally clear how it would work. As my
colleague Marina Koren has reported, many top commanders in the
military (including Secretary of Defense James Mattis) opposed the
plan, arguing that the Pentagon already had the right infrastructure
in place to achieve what Trump wanted: the ability to defend American
interests in space. There’s even an existing Air Force Space

Of course, bureaucratic maneuvering isn’t as sexy as the first new
branch of the military since 1947. The actual function of the Space
Force isn’t nearly as sexy as its name implies, either. As Vice
President Mike Pence outlined in a speech Thursday announcing a new
Pentagon report on the project, the Space Force is not so much about
sending battalions of armed astronauts into the atmosphere as it is
about satellites and space-based defense systems. Those functions are
potentially important, and American adversaries are interested in
making plays for space weapons, but the Defense Department is already
working on them.

When Pence complained Thursday that “while our adversaries have been
busy weaponizing space, too often we have bureaucratized it,” he was
protesting too much. Even though what Trump is proposing is basically
a reorganization of existing systems, he has treated it as if he is
launching something unprecedented. (The Space Force also can’t go
forward unless Congress authorizes it.)

Later on Thursday, the Trump reelection campaign sent an email
inviting supporters to vote on a logo for the Space Force. Here are
the options:

Some of these logos are pretty cool, and others are derivative. But
they’re almost all misleading, especially the “Mars Awaits” one.
You’d think from these designs that the Space Force is preparing for
interstellar travel, rather than launching unmanned satellites into
Earth’s orbit. The United States already has an agency in charge of
space travel: NASA, whose classic logo many of these imitate. (My
colleague James Fallows points out that the Air Force Space Command
already has a perfectly good, if dated, logo.) But making a workaday
defense agency into an avatar of, well, Avatar is all part of the

Once people have voted in the poll, naturally, they are invited to
donate to Trump’s reelection. That leads to a natural complaint: The
Trump campaign appears to be selling the logo rights to the Space
Force in exchange for campaign donations, turning the government into
a tool for Trump’s own political enrichment.

The reality is much more pedestrian, and more characteristically
Trump-y. What the campaign email is selling is not access and
influence, but the illusion of access and influence—an even better
scheme, since it demands nothing real in return. The vote will likely
have no effect on the eventual logo of the Space Force, should
Congress approve it. That’s only fitting for a president who
campaigned as a populist but has governed by, and to the benefit of,
the wealthy and powerful.

Such salesmanship is not new for Trump. The branding of the Space
Force resembles nothing so much as Trump University. In that program,
Trump gussied up a series of drab, clichéd get-rich-quick real-estate
seminars by giving it the name and crest of a full-fledged university
and promising “handpicked” instructors. It was not a university,
nor were the instructors handpicked. In depositions about the project,
Trump proved far removed from any of the actual operations, repeatedly
saying lieutenants had dealt with this or that matter.

Overpromising and underdelivering were staples of Trump’s business
career—see all the allegedly sold-out luxury buildings that turned
out to be undersubscribed or dubiously constructed. Those have become
signature moves during his presidency, too. Take his summit with Kim
Jong Un in Singapore, which produced tremendous fanfare but, as
becomes clearer each day, little in the way of concrete agreements,
despite the president’s claims. The same goes for Trump’s border
wall, which is the subject of repeated announcements of new
construction, even though none has started.

But the Space Force is the purest expression of the branding maneuver,
given the mismatch between the hype (“Mars Awaits”) and the
reality (“It is imperative that the United States adapts its
policies, doctrine, and capabilities to protect our interests,” as
the new report put it). Anyone tempted to get excited about the Space
Force would be well advised to keep the Trump University precedent in
mind. The seminars were a short-term success: Thousands of people
signed up, creating a new revenue stream for Trump. But they
eventually wised up that they weren’t buying real-estate secrets so
much as a bill of goods, and some of them sued him, resulting in a $25
million settlement. Eventually, misleading branding schemes have a
tendency to fall back down to Earth.

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