Trump signs directive to create the US Space Force
A Space Force as a new branch of the U.S. military is one step closer to becoming a reality with the signing of a new space policy directive calling for a formal proposal to be submitted to congress for approval.
Since March 2018, President Donald Trump has been talking about establishing the Space Force. That talk became action on Feb. 19, 2019, when he signed Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), which begins the process of creating the new branch.
“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests,” Trump said during a Feb. 19, 2019, signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House. “Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space. That’s why my administration has recognized space as a warfighting domain and made the creation of the Space Force a national security priority.”
SPD-4 calls on the secretary of defense to develop a legislative proposal to establish the Space Force as the separate branch of the U.S. armed forces. It is expected to initially be placed within the Department of the Air Force, which also oversees the U.S. Air Force.
According to the directive, the Space Force is proposed to strengthen the United States’ ability to “compete, deter and win in an increasingly contested domain.” It is to organize, train and equip “space warfighters” with next-generation capabilities and maximize warfighting capability and advocacy for space while “minimizing bureaucracy.”
The U.S. military already has assets in space that are used for warfighting or reconnaissance. The Space Force is expected to assume responsibility for major U.S. military space acquisition programs and consolidate military space assets into one area.
However, the consolidation is not to include NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Reconnaissance Office or other non-military space organizations of the U.S. government.
The directive also calls for a joint interagency review by the National Space Council and the National Security Council to recommend any changes to space operational authorities.
“Although United States space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of our potential adversaries, those potential adversaries are now advancing their space capabilities and actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis or conflict,” the directive reads.
Once a proposal is created, it still needs to be submitted to congress for approval. If created, the Space Force would be the first new branch of the military since the Air Force was established in 1947. Before that, it was called the U.S. Army Air Forces and was part of the U.S. Army.
While the specifics of what a Space Force would cost and what it would do are unclear, the directive does states that it is to protect U.S. interests in space as well as “the peaceful use of space for all responsible actors, consistent with applicable law, including international law.”
Moreover, it is expected to protect space assets, be they other military spacecraft or commercial spacecraft part of the U.S. economy, which for all intents and purposes extends out some 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) to geostationary orbit where many communications satellites reside.
According to the directive, a budget for the Space Force is expected to be submitted by the secretary of defense to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, which is expected to be included in the president’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request.
The directive also states that the secretary of defense is to conduct periodic reviews to determine when to recommend to the president that the Space Force should be part of a new department in the Department of Defense.
“As the United States Space Force matures, and as national security requires, it will become necessary to create a separate military department, to be known as the Department of the Space Force,” the directive continues. “This department will take over some or all responsibilities for the United States Space Force from the Department of the Air Force.”
Currently, the Department of Defense is comprised of the Department of the Army, which oversees the Army; the Department of the Navy, which oversees the Navy and the Marine Corps; and the Department of the Air Force, which oversees the Air Force.
The U.S. Coast Guard is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.
This was the fourth space policy directive announced by the Trump administration. The first was in December 2017 and called for NASA to “lead an innovative and sustainable” return to the Moon with commercial and international partners.
SPD-2 was signed in May 2018 and called for the streamlining of regulations on the commercial use of space, while SPD-3 was signed in June 2018 and called for a national space traffic management policy to mitigate space debris.
“From the first days of this administration, President Trump has made national security a priority,” Vice President Mike Pence said during the signing ceremony. “From very early on, the president also said that America needed to be as dominant in space as we are on the Earth. And now with this forth space policy directive, america is leading in space once again.”
Video courtesy of the White House
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor. @TheSpaceWriter