US Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Pentagon today, revealed more details about a proposed new military branch, a Space Force. While weve known this was a project of the current administration, weve only today received details about how, exactly, it could actually be realized. According to Pence, this militarized Space Force would be part of the Defense Department, and they intended to create it by 2020. Pence also said President Trump would request $8 billion to spend on the space security systems over the next five years. Don't get your hopes up. Needless to say, this would require lots of new infrastructure for the Pentagon, and Pence was quick to say it wouldnt be built from scratch. Here are the specific steps Pence says come next for the fledgling branch: I dont claim to be an expert in governmental spending by a longshot, but I suspect that might cost more than $8 billion. Pence stressed the Space Force would allow America to push back against other countries, such as China and Russia, who are starting to test new tech in space. While the US will always be peaceful, he said, But history proves that peace only comes through strength. And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength. President Trump has been teasing the idea of the Space Force for quite a while now, and was quite enthusiastic about it on Twitter. Space Force all the way! In June, he directed the Pentagon to create the Space Force, but it wasnt until today we learned details about what the creation of the new branch will be. The Space Force, which would prepare [America] for the next battlefield would be the first new military branch in 71 years — the Air Force having been established in 1947 — and Congress would also need to approve it before it could move ahead. Pence said the Department of Defense will reveal a more detailed report later today.
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.
Vice President Mike Pence today unveiled the Trump administrations plans to form a sixth military branch called Space Force. Its a stupid idea. As a major science nerd, Star Wars fanatic, and lover of the cosmos the thought of Trumps Space Force causes my inner child to leap for joy and make weird laser sounds. But Im not a child. Im a grown up and a military veteran. And the US armed forces shouldnt be anyones fantasy factory. Don't get your hopes up. Before we go any further, Id like to make it perfectly clear that, were this bad idea to become a reality, my criticism of the program is in no way meant to disrespect the brave people whove served or will serve in the military. This isnt about our nations warriors, its about politics. We dont need a Space Force, plain and simple. Heres four reasons why: The United States Air Force Space Command, established over 35 years ago, is headquartered in Colorado. More than 20,000 military personnel perform missions for Space Command, ranging from deploying and monitoring satellites to guarding against ballistic missiles. It seems silly to form an entirely new branch, just to cover the same duties. This isnt the same thing as when the US Army spun out the Air Force. That was to fill a total void in our countrys defense capabilities. In fairness, Pence today said that Space Force wouldnt be built from scratch, but would instead draw upon existing infrastructure. So the question is, will the Air Force just detach Space Command and supplement it with troops and officers from the other branches, or does the Federal government plan to make the existing branches foot the bill by contributing resources from their own budgets? A better idea would be to sharpen the Air Forces focus and put Space Forces budget into Space Command. Especially since, reportedly, that budget isnt going to be very high. Pence also said today that President Trump wanted to budget $8 billion dollars for Space Force over the next five years. Thats $1.6 billion a year. What kind of bargain bin Space Force are we going for here? An aircraft carrier group in the US Navys fleet costs almost a billion dollars a year to operate. And the construction of the Navys newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, cost nearly $13 billion. The Air Force, along with its Space Command, had a budget of nearly $170 billion last year. Im not sure how much of that specifically went to its space endeavors, but Id be willing to make a game show guess it was more than $1.6 billion. By comparison, NASA got almost $20 billion in 2017, and it doesnt have to concern itself with national defense. My point: $8 billion is chump change for a military effort. So what, exactly, is it that Space Force is supposed to do for pennies on the dollar compared to the Navy and Air Force budget, that those branches dont already do? Its mission cant involve a lot of space craft with a budget so small. It doesnt seem like a robust military branch, but a cheap publicity stunt. But people die in the military every single day — even when they arent at war. The military, including any future Space Force, isnt a joke. Unfortunately for my narrative here, Space Force actually began as a joke. Trump was talking to Marines at Miramar (you know, the Marine Corps base where expert pilots from the Navy and Corps train to be Top Guns) about defense spending when he went off script to talk about space, quoting himself somehow: I said, maybe we need a new force, well call it the Space Force, and I was not really serious. Then I said, what a great idea, maybe well have to do that. Im starting to think its not about space or the military, but about invigorating voters. As reported by The Verge, the Trump/Pence PAC just sent emails out asking people to vote on Space Forces logo — ahead of merchandising. And, based on the Twitter reactions Ive seen, the public seems to like the Mars badge the most. It looks like Space Force and Trumps plans to go to Mars are tied together — which only makes sense politically. The Trump/Pence PAC is already trying to monetize the Space Force: "As a way to celebrate President Trumps huge announcement, our campaign will be selling a new line of gear. " Dont get me wrong I believe we need to send a manned mission to Mars. But I cant think of a conceivable reason why the military needs to be worried about going to other planets when were currently fighting the longest war in our nations history right here on Earth. NASA and the private sector seem to have Mars under control. But maybe the Trump administration has top secret information on aliens that makes a Starship Troopers scenario likely. In that case, Im overwhelmingly positive well need to spend far more than $8 billion. Im not the only one who thinks Space Command doesnt need to be its own branch, the brass seems to agree. Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James recently told listeners at the Brookings Institution she believe Space Force wasnt a good idea because: It is a virtual certainty that it will be a huge undertaking that will consume a lot of time, effort, thinking. I do not believe we should have a separate space force. The myriad of details which people joke about, the academies, the uniforms and what not, those may seem trivial but they are details that need to be worked out. According to a CNBC report, James said shed spoken with members of the Pentagons leadership who told her that they thought it was a bad idea. She said, none of them are in favor of a space force but they are stuck. The president has said it and it will be interesting to see how they now deal with it. Hopefully the adults in the Pentagon, whove yet to commit to creating an entirely new branch, will find a way to stow Trumps outlandishly irresponsible scheme. Itll waste billions of dollars reinventing the wheel — a wheel the US Air Force already has. And, having served in numerous capacities alongside warriors in the US Air Force, Im quite confident in the capabilities of our current fighters to defend us from threats both here on Earth and above the clouds, and their ability to adapt as the mission requires. And they deserve that same confidence from their Commander In Chief.
This morning, Vice President Mike Pence recommended creating three new organizations within the Defense Department that would be devoted to different space military needs. Then, he said President Trump will work with Congress next year to establish the US Department of the Space Force by 2020. Pences recommendations are outlined in a report from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who Congress directed to come up with ways the Defense Department could reorganize its management of space activities. The US military has long relied on space technologies for various combat operations, such as satellites that do surveillance and reconnaissance or probes that can detect missile launches from space. However, all of the militarys responsibilities for space are spread among the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Army. Lawmakers have discussed restructuring the militarys space management system to unify it. On June 18th, Trump called for the creation of a Space Force during the third meeting of the National Space Council, a newly formed advisory group that helps shape the US agenda in space. Im hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, Trump said at the meeting. Thats a big statement. The announcement was surprising, but the Space Force has become part of Trumps talking points. Establishing the Space Force would require Congress to pass new legislation. Trump hopes to get that process started by asking for Space Force funding in his annual budget request next year, according to Pence. Then the administration will work with Congress to create the Space Force through next years National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is annual legislation that outlines the policies, responsibilities, and budgets for the various branches of the Defense Department. Congress recently passed the final NDAA for fiscal year 2019 on August 1st, but it did not include any language about creating a Space Force since the process for writing the act started before Trumps announcement. They put together a draft of that bill in the spring, Doug Loverro, an independent consultant and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, tells The Verge. Theyre not allowed to change anything in the draft they put forward, unless in places they explicitly disagree. The things they can only negotiate are things they have written. And the whole Space Force announcement happened in June. So the Space Force will have to wait until the next NDAA. But Pence hopes the military will make a few big changes in the interim based on the Shanahan report. First, hes calling for the creation of a new unified combatant command for space that will be named the United States Space Command. This would seemingly reorganize the warfighting chain of command for space, which is separate from what the Space Force would do. Within the Defense Department, there are two primary chains of command: warfighting and OTE (organize, train, and equip). OTE is the responsibility of the various military branches, such as the Air Force, Army, and Navy. Theyre in charge of figuring out what kinds of military equipment they want to make and then training the necessary people to use that equipment. This is what the Space Force would focus on: creating satellites and training personnel to operate them. The warfighting chain of command works at a higher level. This area of the Defense Department consists of various combatant commands, such as EUCOM or STRATCOM, which decide how to strategically use the branches of the military. For instance, CENTCOM decides what troops and equipment it needs stationed in the Middle East based on whats available, and then the armed forces provide those resources. Currently, the warfighting chain of command for space is overseen by STRATCOM, which is mostly focused on nuclear deterrence and global strike. But the Trump administration would create a separate command for space apart from STRATCOM, led by a four-star flag officer. This is a throwback: in 1985, the US created the US Space Command to do exactly this, but the organization was put under the umbrella of STRATCOM in 2002. Pence also wants the Defense Department to create a new organization called the Space Development Agency, which would reorganize how the military acquires new space technology. Currently, space acquisitions are done by the Air Forces Space and Missile Systems Center. But this new agency would seem to take that responsibility away from the Air Force. Pence called for a new elite group of joint warfighters, specializing in the domain of space, who would be part of a newly minted Space Operations Force. Its not clear where this organization will reside, but it may serve as the backbone for what the eventual Space Force will become. Theyre going to be pulling people from the Air Force, from the Marines, from the Army, to put them in this new organization to think about how space fits into warfighting, Brian Weeden, a space expert at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit that specializes in space security, tells The Verge. It sounds like that is to be the nucleus that becomes the separate Space Force. A new civilian position will also be created, Pence says: the assistant secretary of defense for space. This person will report to the secretary of defense and make sure the new reorganization efforts are running smoothly. Creating a new branch of the military is not a simple process, Pence said during his speech. It will require collaboration, diligence, and, above all, leadership. As challenges arise and deadlines approach, there must be someone in charge who can execute, hold others accountable, and be responsible for the results. These changes may sound like good news to some lawmakers who have supported shaking up the way the military does space. For instance, experts argue that the Air Force acquisitions process for space takes too long to get satellites into orbit and that the military is resistant and slow to implement changes to space policies. Reorganization could help get rid of those problems or just create new ones. There are problems with the current creation, says Weeden. Im just not convinced these changes are going to fix those problems. Reorganizations always take longer and are more complicated than we think they are. Im concerned this is going to suck up a lot of time, energy, and resources.
The sixth branch of the military will still require congressional approval. Vice President Mike Pence has detailed a plan to establish Space Force as a new military branch. In a Pentagon speech, he laid out proposals to form a US Space Command (as was previously reported) that would focus on defending space. White House officials aim to establish Space Command by the end of the year and have a four-star general in place to lead it. "Just as we've done in ages past, the United States meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield," Pence said, according to the Washington Post. "The time has come to establish the United States Space Force." Under the plan, the Pentagon will recruit a civilian Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, and set up an office to develop tech and buy satellites to help the US in space combat. If Congress gives the green light to Space Force, the sixth branch of the military could officially be formed as early as 2020. President Donald Trump ordered the creation of Space Force in June, turning his admitted joke idea into a reality. Some members of Congress last year floated the idea of forming a Space Corps inside the Air Force, which didn't go anywhere after some military officials opposed the move. Space Force is a more expansive project -- eventually, there could be a new member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff representing the new military branch.
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.