US Air Force Head Mulls Declassifying Secret Programmes to Gain Support for Space Force in Congress

The Pentagon has recently been actively pursuing the development and deployment of new equipment in space, including designed to detect early launches of ballistic intercontinental missiles from the territory of potential adversaries.

Barbara Barrett, chief of the US Air Force, has come up with an unusual strategy to find support among not just US lawmakers, but also among the public for Trump's new branch of the country's armed forces, the Space Force, by declassifying a number of secret programmes that the Pentagon is currently running in space.

She opined that this could clarify to the broader public what the US is doing in this domain and why exactly it needs a separate force for operations in space, as well as funding. But Barrett cautioned against taking things too far and revealing too much out of a desire to end the practice of keeping such programmes "overwhelmingly classified".

"Declassifying some of what is currently held in secure vaults would be a good idea. You would have to be careful about what we declassify, but there is much more classified than what needs to be", Barrett said.

The Air Force chief's idea was supported by Mike Rogers, a member of one of the target groups for the suggested action – House Republicans, who opined that the move to declassify not only US, but also known Russian and Chinese activities in space, would help make congressmen more "supportive" of the military's needs.

"It’s not going to happen until they understand the threat and the dependence we have. And I don’t think that can happen until we see significant declassification of what we’re doing in space and what China and Russia are doing, and how space is in their day-to-day lives", Rogers said.

Neither Rogers nor Barrett has clarified how much will be released to the public, nor did they elaborate on when it might happen, but the Air Force chief pledged to focus on the matter of increasing openness in the near future.

The Air Force is not the first to mull taking a new approach towards classified data, as former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon has also pushed for declassifying more information in a bid to combat Russia and China's alleged attempts to target US citizens for data collection purposes.

Trump announced the creation of the Space Force in 2018, but the proposed new military branch has not officially received funding yet. The National Defence Authorisation Act for fiscal year 2020 contains funding for it, but it is yet to be approved by the Senate and the president. According to the defence bill, the Space Force will be established within the Air Force and its chief will report to the secretary of the Air Force, but will still be a separate member in the Joint Chiefs of Staff.