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Donald Trump sets ‘Space Force’ in motion; new entity to be housed under Air Force

February 20, 2019 - 10:05 am

President Trump signed a directive Tuesday setting in motion a scaled-down version of his Space Force that would be housed within the Air Force, though might one day become a coequal branch of the military.

Mr. Trump argues the new force is needed to counter growing space-related threats from China and Russia, who are developing new weapons to interfere with satellites.

“I’m very proud that during my administration, we’re doing so much in space. We need it,” Mr. Trump said in an Oval Office signing ceremony with Vice President Mike Pence, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other top officials.

The White House said Space Policy Directive 4 orders the Department of Defense to devise a budget for the new force that can be included in Mr. Trump’s fiscal 2020 request to Congress.

It also tells the defense secretary to draft a legislative proposal that if approved by Congress would establish a chief of staff for the Space Force, within the Air Force, and create a civilian undersecretary position for space, to be appointed by the president and approved by the Senate.

Mr. Trump last year suggested the Space Force would be a coequal branch with the likes of the Navy, Army or Air Force. Yet the proposal ran into opposition on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers said a separate, brand-new entity sounded like a costly endeavor that wasn’t truly needed.

The administration isn’t letting go of its goal, however, saying Monday’s directive is the “first step toward a future, separate, military department for space.”

For now, the new force will be run within the broader Air Force, akin to the Marine Corps’ status under the Navy.

Defense Department leaders expect to formally unveil legislative language tied to the proposal at the Pentagon next week, an Air Force official told The Washington Times.

A final draft of the proposal is complete and includes projected budget figures for the new Space Force for the coming fiscal year and beyond, the official added, declining to comment on the specific dollar amounts being proposed by the Pentagon.

Mr. Trump’s order consolidates personnel engaged in military operations or Defense acquisition related to space, to avoid duplication.

Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, on Monday said roughly “80 or 90 percent” of space-related military personnel work under the Air Force.

The department is looking at numerous options for standing up the separate force as directed by Mr. Trump, adding, “we have been in a robust debate, as you can imagine.”

“There are a thousand decisions that need to be made to be able to work into the intricate details of how we move forward in establishing the service within the Department of the Air force,” he said at the Brookings Institution .

The directive is likely to face pushback from lawmakers who see the added expense as unnecessary, and it is not guaranteed approval in the Democrat-controlled House.

Regardless, the White House will be able to go forward with standing up a new combatant command as the move does not require congressional approval until Mr. Trump decides to create a separate department.

Gen. Goldfein highlighted the command as his most important task.

“We are the best in the world,” he said. “Our adversaries know it. They have been sending us and investing in ways to take away that capability.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, was one of the first supporters of Mr. Trump’s Space Force proposal last year and was quick to applaud the latest effort.

“Today, I am glad to see the progress we have made towards finally doing something about it,” he said. “I want to thank President Trump for the work did to draw attention to the threat.”

Carlo Muoz contributed to this story.

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