WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday outlined its plans to establish a sixth branch of the military — a “Space Force” that would focus on what officials described as emerging threats from foreign adversaries — by 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence, in a speech delivered at the Pentagon, and the U.S. Department of Defense, in a 15-page report, detailed the administration’s efforts to boost the country’s military presence in space in the next two years. The plans, which include appointing an assistant secretary of defense for space, come amid reports of heightened efforts by Russia and China to develop space weapons systems.
“Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already and the United States will not shrink from this challenge," Pence said. "America will always seek peace in space as on the earth, but history proves that peace only comes through strength and in the realm of outer space the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead.”
In March the president first proposed the idea of a “Space Force” and directed Pentagon officials in June, during a meeting of the National Space Council, to establish a “separate but equal” military branch focused on space.
“Space Force all the way!” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon from his Bedminster, New Jersey, estate, where he has spent the past week.
The release of Thursday’s report was the first step in a long process required for the establishment of a new military branch. Congress would eventually need to approve the new force, which Trump administration officials have said would require $8 billion in federal funding. If approved, the “Space Force” would be the newest military branch since the Air Force was established in 1947 in response to World War II.
Pence said the administration will “soon take action” to implement the recommendations outlined in the Department of Defense’s report, none of which require congressional approval, “with the objective of establishing the United States Department of the Space Force by 2020.”
The report calls on the Pentagon to move ahead with four key steps including creating a separate U.S. Space Command, led by a four-star general or flag officer, to "lead the use of space assets in warfighting.”
The Air Force currently oversees its own Space Command, located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, but the Pentagon’s proposal seeks to transition that command into the stand-alone Space Force.
"The Space Force will not be built from scratch," Pence said, later adding that “just like special operations forces, a space operations force will draw men and women from across the military and will grow into their own unique and cohesive community.”
Other steps outlined in the report include establishing a joint "Space Development Agency" to focus on technology and innovation, creating a specialized “Space Operations Force” of “space warfighters” who will provide “expertise” to Pentagon officials, and submitting “a legislative proposal for congressional consideration” as part of the 2020 budget cycle.
Support for the concept of a Space Force has been split among lawmakers.
Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), leaders of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, lauded the administration’s proposal on Thursday, saying in a joint statement: "We are glad that the Pentagon is finally taking these steps in enhancing our space strength."
Last year the duo led a failed effort in the House of Representatives to establish a similar force under the Air Force. At the time, several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle cited concerns about costs and growing the federal bureaucracy more to create a new military force.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and one-time NASA astronaut, said last year creating a new force “would cost so much money, it would be so duplicative.”