Space Force Becomes Reality As New Military Branch

President Trump called for the creation of a sixth branch of the military the Space Force, in June 2018.

Now it’s a real thing.

The Pentagon’s 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement indicates that the U.S. Space Force will take flight on its own, rather than under the wing of the U.S. Air Force. The budget states that the Space Force will be “organized, trained, and equipped to provide— (1) freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space; and (2) prompt and sustained space operations.”

According to Popular Mechanics, “The Chief of Space Operations will report to the Secretary of the Air Force, much the way the Commandant of the Marine Corps reports to the Secretary of the Navy.”

The new branch of the military may be futuristic-sounding, but supporters of the initiative say that technology has advanced to the point where it is necessary to have dominant presence in outer space to protect America’s military and communications assets, such as satellites, and to get ahead of countries like Russia and China, which are seeking to expand their presence in space. The new military branch was proposed last year before Congress as the “Space Corps,” but the legislation failed to pass.

The importance of American assets in space, along with the Trump administration’s renewed interest in space exploration has made space a prominent focus for the military. In recent years that interest has been handled by the Air Force, but now a new, separate branch will be handling those duties.

Screenshot/The White House — President Donald Trump orders the Pentagon and Department of Defense to begin creation of the Space Force.

“The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers. But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security. So important for our military. So important. And people don’t talk about it,” President Trump said during a meeting with the National Space Council. “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

Militarization in space by several countries has been a growing concern for the United States and world for several years. China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test in 2007 drew concern from around the world, and Russia claims that it’s new MiG-41 will be able to fly at hypersonic speeds and operate in outer space.

The president continued, “I’m here by 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.”

DoD Illustration

Joined in June by legendary astronauts: Apollo missions astronauts Jack Schmitt and Buzz Aldrin, and Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a Space Shuttle, the president signed the Space Policy Directive-3, which updates the United States’ tracking of objects in space in an effort to make space traffic more efficient and minimize space debris.

NASA/Tracy Caldwell Dyson — Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station.

The task of carrying out the creation of the Space Force as a new military branch was given to General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The United States Air Force has handled matters related to space since the 1950s, and some officials and military leaders have been outspoken against the creation of a new military branch. The duties of the Air Force Space Command would likely become the duties of the new Space Force.

“Our nation of pioneers still yearns to conquer the unknown, because we are Americans and the future belongs totally to us,” said President Trump. “Once more, we will launch intrepid souls blazing through the sky and soaring into the heavens. Once more, we will summon the American spirit to tame the next great American frontier. And once more, we will proudly lead humanity — and that’s what it is, it’s humanity — beyond the Earth and into those forbidden skies, but they will not be forbidden for long.”

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