Friday, April 08, 2005

Marines in Space!

Marines in Space, and we ain't talking Starship Troopers! Recently, a "Universal Needs Statement" (UNS) crossed my desk and caught my eye. UNS are produced by Marine Corps staff officers to enunciate future needs of the Marine Corps in materiel or manpower. Well, this one, six pages in length, called for the development of the "Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion Capability (SUSTAIN)." Reading through this document, I discovered that someone in the Marine Corps thinks that in 10 years or so, my beloved Corps should have the capability to shoot a squad of Marines (13 or so) into space, have them orbit for a while, then land in a hot spot someplace as a "fully relevant small unit at any place on the globe" without respect to airspace or territorial concerns.

How dumb is this idea? Forget the NASA's seemingly contradictory pattern of fevered gyrations and institutional paralysis that occur whenever they try to orbit astronauts, but shooting a squad of Marines and their weapons? Give me a break. And what good would it be to drop a squad anyplace that you could not otherwise reach with airpower? What is the scenario for their utilization, no matter how farfetched? How to sustain them? How to evacuate them? The UNS states that they would be available to "exploit time-sensitive strategic opportunities?" Sounds like a one way lawn dart to me. But you know what? We are going to spend millions of dollars on this idea because some General thinks that it is nifty, while we scratch our heads trying to find money for stuff we really need like comm gear that works or Iraqi dialect language training.