The "how" is coming together even as the "why" remains a bit vague. Today, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the Pentagon in which he filled in some details on the administration's plans to add a distinct space force to the Department of Defense. The speech coincided with the completion of a Pentagon report that provides a greater sense of how the space force would be structured and fit in with the existing Defense bureaucracy. But there's still a lot unspecified regarding whether non-defense space activities, such as those pursued by the NSA, will be affected by the changes. A significant portion of Pence's speech was devoted to arguing that this is the right time for a space force. Some of the arguments date back to the Cold War, like the development of anti-satellite weaponry, a concern enhanced by China's testing of such a weapon about a decade ago. Others are more recent, like the development of things such as GPS-jamming hardware. One of the arguments stretched logic a little, as Pence cited the threat of hypersonic missiles, which pose a risk because they don't enter space and therefore can't be targeted for antimissile interception there. While these events may not represent a coherent plan by an adversary to militarize space, Pence argued that they represent a situation where US adversaries like China and Russia have already made space what he termed a warfighting domain. "What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial," Pence said, referring to space. " Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and challenge our supremacy as never before." He quoted Trump in saying that this was unacceptable and that "We must have American dominance in space." Pence has argued that this change meant that the appropriate response is a new branch of the military, but his view of history here was a bit odd. The two examples he cited to argue for the benefits of a space force were the US Air Force's growth during World War II and the formation of the Special Operations Command in the 1980s. But the Air Force's growth took place while it was still the Army Air Corps; its current status was only granted afterward. The Special Operations Command, by contrast, hasn't achieved the same status as that intended for space force. Be that as it may, the administration is starting to fill out some details about what might go into a space force. These would include a secretary of the Space Force, which will eventually reach the same status as the secretary of the Army or Navy and have a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The secretary will oversee a unified combat command that will coordinate activities and establish combat doctrines for space. That will be joined by a Space Development Agency that, by becoming part of the defense bureaucracy, is intended to be an antidote to bureaucracy and enable new thinking. The first chance to implement any of this will be in the 2020 budget. Starting then, the administration hopes to spend $8 billion over the ensuing five years. In terms of practical considerations, Pence mentioned a couple of activities that will be folded into the space force. These include our current anti-ballistic missile defense systems. Pence also mentioned reconnaissance satellites. While the military operates a number of these, others are handled by civilian agencies like the NSA, as it was found to be advantageous to have multiple sources of intelligence. It's not clear whether that independent operation will continue and, if so, how these activities will be coordinated with those of the space force. While the details are still sparse, all indications are that the majority of the personnel and activities that could end up in the space force will come from the Air Force. Whatever happens with the creation of the space force, US doctrine will remain constrained by the Outer Space Treaty, which outlaws the positioning of weapons of mass destruction in space or any weaponry on the Moon. While this does allow a variety of conventional weapons in space, practical considerations should limit things like anti-satellite weapons, which have the potential to create debris fields that limit access to space by all nations. When the report becomes available, we'll update this article to reflect it.
In a speech before the Department of Defense at the Pentagon today, Vice President Mike Pence outlined the broad contours of the new Space Force that the Trump administration wants to create as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. Emphasizing the need to both further militarize and privatize space as a new war-fighting domain, Pence stressed that the new branch of the military is targeted for a 2020 implementation date. The administration is pushing for $8 billion in new space spending. While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, private property and the rule of law, said Pence. As we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry Americas commitment to freedom into this new frontier. Pence cited threats from North Korea, Russia, China and Iran to the safety of the U.S. space program. Newer threats include the Chinese governments 2007 launch of a satellite-destroying missile and the development of hypersonic missiles that can evade U.S. missile defense capabilities. The Chinese government has set up a separate division within its own military to address space as a war-fighting domain, Pence said. Our adversaries have transformed space into a war-fighting domain already. It is not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space, Pence said quoting the president. What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial. To advance its goals of creating the new Space Force, the Trump administration had commissioned the Department of Defense to issue a report on the necessary steps to create the new military branch. 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 is opposed to the idea, because it might lose key responsibilities. The proposal would also need congressional approval. In a report that will be issued later today, the DOD outlined four steps. The first is the creation of a United States Space Command that will coordinate the nations space-fighting capabilities. Pence likened it to the special operations command established in the 1980s that provided unified command and control capabilities for mobilizing terrestrial air, sea and land forces. This new command structure for the physical domain of space, led by a four-star flag officer will… develop the space war-fighting doctrine and tactics of the future. As part of the space plan, the Department of Defense will also create a new space operations force that will be an elite group of joint war fighters specializing in the war-fighting domains of space, according to Pence. Theyll support the space combat and command and carry out space missions. Third, a new joint organization called the Space Development Agency will be created to develop new technologies for the space force. While our adversaries have been busy weaponizing space, we have been bureaucratizing it, Pence said. He pointed to the creation of the intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Navys nuclear fleet as examples of American military innovation and achievement from past initiatives. (Its a good thing he didnt bring up the Air Forces half-a-trillion-dollar drone boondoggle of a new fighter plane.) Finally, the process of creating the new organization will require oversight, which will include the creation of a new civilian position that will report to the secretary of defense, Pence said. That position will be called the assistant secretary of defense of space. Just as weve done in ages past, the United States will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield, Pence said. The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.