Side Note

There might be constitutional limits to the Space Force

The Congressional Research Service recently released a report titled “Towards the Creation of a U.S. ‘Space Force’” that’s meant to help the government figure out how to legally create the stupid Space Force if it’s really dead-set on doing so. While the report offers a handful of suggestions on how to make the Space Force happen, it also notes, “It may conceivably be argued that congressional authority is limited to ‘land and naval forces’ [...] and thus would not extend to a new armed force operating primarily in the realm of space.”

It turns out that technically, the Constitution only lets Congress and the President control America’s military operations on land and sea. In the short-term, the CRS theorizes, the humans of the Space Force wouldn’t necessarily be doing that much stuff in space, so this little detail would probably be inconsequential.

However, writes legal scholar Michael Ramsey, things get interesting when you extrapolate the Space Force out a few generations:

Suppose [the Space Force] is projecting force into deeper space, either for the purpose of fighting hypothetical aliens or protecting distant colonization. One might plausibly argue that this mission is sufficiently distinct from the mission encompassed by the conventional meaning of Army and Navy in 1788 that it’s really a different power. Congress cannot claim a power not otherwise delegated to it simply by putting the Army in charge of it.

In other words, America’s own founding document might prevent it from just sending humans up into space and having them fight aliens and stuff. This actually kind of makes sense if you think about it — if the world is, for some reason, facing an alien invasion, we probably should put up a unified front or else we’re all going to get blown up. (That is, assuming our hypothetical alien visitors were actually aggressive, which they totally might not be.)