President Donald Trump’s administration yesterday outlined an aggressive plan for creating a sixth branch of the US military by 2020, a Space Force to better confront emerging security threats – but the proposal will need approval from a divided Congress.
Critics view the creation of a Space Force as an unnecessary and expensive bureaucratic endeavor and scoff at comparisons to the establishment of the Air Force in 1947.
The Space Force would be responsible for a range of crucial space-based US military capabilities, which include everything from satellites enabling the Global Positioning System (GPS) to sensors that help track missile launches.
US Vice President Mike Pence, in a Pentagon address, described the Space Force as “an idea whose time has come.”
“The next generation of Americans to confront the emerging threats in the boundless expanse of space will be wearing the uniform of the United States of America,” he said, adding that Congress must now act to establish and fund the department. Trump, the champion of the plan, tweeted: “Space Force all the way!”
Their remarks were timed to coincide with the release of a Pentagon report outlining the steps needed to create a Space Force, something it does not have the power to do on its own. The Pentagon report included interim steps including creating a unified combatant command, known as the US Space Command, by the end of 2018, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis threw his support behind that idea on Tuesday.
The Pentagon report recommended that for now the unified command be in the hands of the Air Force, which currently oversees some of the most critical space-based capabilities.
One of the arguments in favor of devoting more resources to a Space Force or Space Command is that American rivals like Russia and China appear increasingly ready to strike US space-based capabilities in the event of a conflict.