In June, President Trump called for the creation of an additional branch of the military, saying, “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space, so important. Very importantly I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, that’s a big statement.”
Thursday, Vice President Pence took one small step in what will be a giant leap toward creating that new Space Force by 2020. At the Pentagon Pence said, “Now the time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces to prepare for the next battlefield, where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation.”
The vice president then outlined the proposal, which is being delivered to Congress because the creation of a new military branch requires congressional action. No new service branch has been established by Congress since the creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947 — over 70 years ago. What does the report propose?
- Establish a Space Command, a new unified combat and command structure for space.
- Form a Space Operations Force made up of an elite group of joint warfighters specializing in the space domain to “form the backbone” of the new service.
- Create a new Space Development Agency to develop new space capabilities.
- Create a new position — assistant secretary of defense for space — that will help oversee the Space Force transition.
What would the U.S. Space Force do?
Like the other branches of the military, which oversee the domains of air, ground and sea, a Space Force would oversee the potential battlefield of space, but not like fighting aliens in sci-fi movies.
It would involve defending U.S. space-based military assets like satellites and new technologies from foreign adversaries. The Air Force is currently in charge of the U.S. military’s space capabilities. That includes everything from satellites enabling the Global Positioning System to sensors that help track missile launches.
While Defense Secretary Jim Mattis rejected the idea of creating a Space Force within the Air Force in 2017, it seems he’s changed course, but stopped short of promising a new branch. When asked if he supports establishing a new combatant command for space, he told reporters, “Absolutely. We need to address space as a developing warfighting domain, and a combatant command is certainly one thing that we can establish. It is a process we’re in. We’re in complete alignment with the president’s concern about protecting our assets in space.”