It’s long been a priority of the White House to ramp up space travel and, along with it, the military industrial complex needed to combat any threats to the United States’ presence in space. On Monday, President Donald Trump gave a directive to the the Department of Defense and Pentagon to “immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as a sixth branch of the armed forces.”
The announcement came at a meeting with the National Space Council. Trump had previously toyed with the idea in a March speech, but the president hasn’t offered many details about his vision for astronaut soldiers. What the space force actually means is anyone’s guess, but Trump described the space branch of the military as “separate but equal” to the Air Force. It’s unclear how Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reacted to the news since he was off camera.
This framing is much different than what’s being offered up in the most recent House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which would establish a “Space Corps” that operates as a unit in the Air Force. (The Air Force is already in charge of running classified experiments with unmanned space vehicles.) Supporters in Congress say that the military expansion is necessary at a time when US satellites are currently vulnerable to attacks from China and Russia. Last October, Defense Secretary James Mattis expressed his disapproval of the House and Senate armed services committees’ proposal to establish a Space Corps.
You can see a full clip of Trump’s speech here:
President Trump says he is directing @DeptofDefense and Pentagon "to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces. That's a big statement. We are going the have the Air Force and the Space Force; separate but equal." pic.twitter.com/Qj6jUbdV2w
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 18, 2018