Trump calls for creation of ‘Space Force’
During a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House on June 18, 2018, President Donald Trump announced he was ordering the creation of a sixth branch of the U.S. military – to focus on space.
Most of the military’s space activities are currently the responsibility of the Air Force Space Command, which was activated on Sept. 1, 1982, with headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said. “We are going to have the Air Force and we’re going to have the ‘Space Force.’ Separate but equal. It is going to be something.”
The idea of creating a separate branch of the military has been raised before, both by Trump and by previous administrations. It has faced criticism by senior military officials, including Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein told a congressional hearing in 2017 that creating a new space branch would “move us in the wrong direction.”
Creating a new military branch would require approval from Congress, which has been divided on the idea. While a proposal to carve a “Space Corps” out of the Air Force failed to make it into the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress did require the Pentagon to perform a feasibility study of the idea. That study is expected to be delivered to Congress in August 2018.
On Tuesday night, June 19, Air Force leadership, including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, sent out a message to all airmen regarding the presidential order.
“The President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position—space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” the message reads. “We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”
Statements from both the Air Force and the Department of Defense indicate that creating the new force will take time.
“We understand the President’s guidance,” said Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White in a statement on Military.com. “Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”
According to a report by the New York Post, Monday’s announcement caught the Pentagon off guard, with a report in The Wall Street Journal stating that the announcement is the culmination of U.S. military commanders’ opposition to the move and Trump’s frustration at the lack of progress that appeared to be taking place.
Many officials and experts have subsequently noted that this move is an unnecessary one as the U.S. Air Force has the resources and experience required to accommodate space-related defense initiatives.
Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.