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Pence Announces Plans for Trump's 6th Military Branch, Space Force
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10 Aug 2018 01:08 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mike Pence (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)


Donald Trump announced his desire to launch "Space Force," what would be the sixth branch of the military, back in June. Not much else was known other than that until Thursday when Mike Pence gave details of just what this will entail and that we could see it as soon as 2020.

In his speech at the Pentagon, the Vice President announced that potential adversaries were making advances in space, increasing the need for the United States to step up their own program to maintain the military's dominance.

"Just as we've done in ages past, the United States will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield," explained Pence. "The time has come to establish the United States Space Force."

This isn't a new idea. Last year Congress put the idea on hold. Such a move will require funding and reorganization, and there's been opposition all around, most notably from the Air Force, a military branch worried it will lose some of its responsibilities.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was opposed to the idea last year, stating it was coming "at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions."

However, Mattis said this week that the Pentagon and White House "are in complete alignment" with the idea of possibly needing to be combative in space. Yet, he didn't really endorse "Space Force," per se. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan suggested last year's comments were made during a different time when the budget had a different outlook.

The first step in this process will be to create a U.S. Space Command, something they are looking to accomplish by the end of the year. This would bring in space experts from other branches of the military. Purchasing satellites and developing new technology would require a separate acquisitions office.

Not surprisingly, Trump tweeted an enthusiastic, "Space Force all the way!" after Pence's announcement.

The Trump 2020 campaign sent a letter to supporters the same day describing a line of gear they would like to sell with a new logo. One was described as "Mars Awaits." This led critics to see the announcement as politically motivated.

Because the Pentagon's satellites have many responsibilities in helping the military, some military leaders and members of Congress believe space is an important factor of war and that it's no longer the same field that inspired awe in the 1960s, with Russia and China making significant advancements.

Pence announced that the Pentagon will create the position of an assistant secretary of defense for space who will report to the defense secretary "to oversee the growth and expansion of the sixth branch of service." It would be up to that official to decide all the details of the branch such as recruiting, resources, uniforms, ranking, etc.

At one point it was suggested that instead of a full branch, a Space Corps should be created as part of the Air Force Department. Deborah James, Air Force secretary during the Obama administration, believes creating a sixth branch is "a solution in search of a problem."

While Mattis and current Air Force secretary Heather Wilson were against the creation of a space military, James believes they are now "stuck because the president announced this by surprise" back in June.

The White House would like to see Congress provide an additional $8 billion for national security space systems over the next five years, but Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, believes this new branch should be "budget-neutral." 

That said, he also believes, moving forward, "there probably will need to be an increase in resources to buy improved capabilities and more warfighters as the Space Force matures." 

Pence informed his audience, mostly U.S. troops, that their "commander in chief is going to continue to work tirelessly toward this goal, and we expect you all to do the same." He urged that "the only thing we can't afford is inaction."




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