Stormship Troopers

A deadly incident occurs halfway around the world, and U.S. forces are on the scene in minutes. Farfetched? Not if Defense leaders have their way.

Pentagon officials want to transport warfighters to hot spots via space travel. While pursuits in the not-so-final frontier have been reasonably safe and successful for some time, space travel has not been used as a means for transportation much beyond the International Space Station (that is, that we know of).

Representatives from the services recently met at the D.C.-based National Security Space Office. The two-day planning session targeted the development of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) program. USA Today reported that the Marine Corps first pushed the concept in 2001 following the terror attack Sept. 11. The Corps was seeking a way to place its Marines in hot spots quickly and within minutes.
The idea of unit space travel dates back even further when another Marine Gen. Wallace Greene Jr. floated the concept in a 1963 speech, hoping to have Marines in space by 1968. Greene later became the Corps’ commandant.

Fantasy? Private space travel was achieved in 2004. But blasting a squad of combat-ready Marines to a troubled area is a much different task according to experts. Weight is a major issue. The modules cannot be armored so missions are likely to be a one-way trip. Additionally, fuel costs would be staggering.

Currently, a more daunting (and overlooked) challenge is that of contract management. Let’s replay the Tax Payer Hit Parade: The Air Force and DoD have failed to contract for the replacement of the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. The Navy is awash in cost overruns with its littoral combat ship program. The sea service continues its struggles with cost increases and schedule delays with its Zumwalt class DDG-1000. The Pentagon just scrapped an Army helo program that saw unit cost jump nearly 70 percent. (Can you imagine if the Army did not have its new Contracting Command?!)

They can’t build a helo, but they can get warfighters into space? Contract and cost control remain DoD’s final frontier.

Recent Posts