THE WASHINGTON POST:
Vice President Mike Pence laid out an ambitious plan Thursday that would create a military command dedicated to space this year and eventually establish a “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the U.S. military.
In a speech at the Pentagon, Pence warned of the advancements that potential adversaries were making and issued what amounted to a call to arms to preserve the military’s dominance in space.
“Just as we’ve done in ages past, the United States will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield,” he said. “The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.”
The creation of a new branch of the military — the first since the Air Force was created in the wake of World War II in 1947 — could require a significant reorganization of the Pentagon. And some officials within the military and national security communities fiercely oppose the idea. The Air Force in particular might lose key responsibilities. The proposal would also need Congressional approval.
In the meantime, White House officials have been working with national security leaders to aggressively move ahead without Congress. The first step would be to create a U.S. Space Command by the end of the year, a new combatant command that would have dedicated resources, be led by a four-star general, and be tasked with defending space, the way the Pentagon’s Pacific Command oversees the ocean.
The Pentagon will also begin pulling space experts from across the military and setting up a separate acquisitions office, dedicated to buying satellites and developing new technology to help it win wars in space.
For months, Trump has been calling a Space Force, a new, free-standing military department, with its own chain of command and uniforms. The White House intends to work with lawmakers in submitting legislation by early next year, a senior administration official said, with the hopes of standing up the department as early as 2020.
In his speech, Pence acknowledged the difficulties in standing up a new service, and said the Pentagon would create an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, a new top level civilian position reporting to the Secretary of Defense “to oversee the growth and expansion of the sixth branch of service.”
The new command and reorganization “should be budget neutral,” Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an interview. “However, going forward there probably will need to be an increase in resources to buy improved capabilities and more warfighters as the Space Force matures.”