Saturday, August 18News That Matters

Pence Lays Out Plans for 'Space Force' Sought by Trump


Vice President Mike Pence said, “We must have American dominance in space.”

Vice President Mike Pence said, “We must have American dominance in space.”


Photo:

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By

WASHINGTON—Vice President

Mike Pence

laid out an ambitious plan Thursday to put President Trump’s stamp on the U.S. military by creating a military command dedicated to space—the Space Force.

If established by Congress, the Space Force would join the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and become the military’s sixth branch. It would be led by a four-star commander, the vice president said, and be funded in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

“We must have American dominance in space,” Mr. Pence said at the Pentagon before senior defense department leaders and military commanders, many of whom have been skeptical about the establishment of a new military branch.

The Pentagon released a 15-page report Thursday outlining a framework for the Space Force.

The establishment of the first new military branch since the Air Force was created in 1947 faces a number of obstacles. The creation of a new service requires legislation passed by Congress. The Space Force would likely require its own headquarters, contractors, recruiters, and civilian support, amounting to thousands of new employees. It would demand its own standards for its troops, housing, basing, and potentially a new ranking system. The Pentagon doesn’t specify a budget for the proposed Space Force.

The military didn’t ask for a new branch and top military leaders have opposed it. A yet-to-be-named assistant secretary of defense for space would report to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about the development of the branch, the vice president said.

Neither the vice president nor the Pentagon report explained what was lacking in the U.S.’s current space posture. There are currently several parts of the military that deal with defense of space, led by the Air Force’s Air Force Space Command. And it remains unclear what would happen to that command should the Space Force be launched.

The Pentagon report called Russia and China “strategic competitors” in space. Among the threat officials have cited are foes that could shoot down satellites critical to U.S. infrastructure.

Among the proposed components of the Space Force would be an elite Space Operations Force of special operators—akin to the Army’s Green Berets and the Navy Seals but dedicated to space, the vice president said. Space Operations forces would begin deploying to Europe and the Asia Pacific by 2019, the report said. In addition, a Space Command would developing “space warfighting operations to protect U.S. national interests,” according to the Pentagon report.

In an October 2017 letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee Mr. Mattis said he opposed a new military service dedicated to space, saying he did not want the “additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.” Other top Air Force leaders have also said they didn’t support it.

Mr. Mattis has since refined his position. “We are in complete alignment with the president’s concern about protecting our assets in space,” he said this week.

Mr. Trump spoke about the Space Force earlier this month during a rally in Columbus, Ohio.

“Look, so much is happening now in space and I’m not just talking about Mars and the moon, I’m talking about tremendous defense capability, offensive capability, it’s in space so we’re going to do the Space Force,” he said.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at nancy.youssef@wsj.com

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