Vice President Mike Pence hosts a meeting of the National Space Council in October

Vice President Mike Pence hosts a meeting of the National Space Council in October Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Defense Department

White House Seeks Alternatives to Independent Space Force

Pentagon leaders were dutifully double-timing toward a new military branch. Then they got new marching orders.

For months, Pentagon officials have been rushing to prepare plans for an independent Space Force, a sixth branch of the military ordered up by President Trump. But since Oct. 26, they have been marching to new White House orders: go back and look at different ways to reorganize the military’s space operations.

One of the four new options is an old one, defense officials said: a space corps that would be part of the Air Force, the way the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy. The proposed structure is similar to a bipartisan proposal that passed in the House but failed in the Senate last year.

Why the second thoughts? The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggested that some in the Trump administration fear that the proposed independent Space Force might not make it through Congress.

A former senior defense official said Pentagon officials would be more comfortable with a space corps within the Air Force, but feel Trump’s comments that he wants a “separate but equal” space force have given them little wiggle room.

The four options, according to one of the officials, include: 1) an Air Force-owned space corps that includes only Air Force assets, 2) an Air Force-owned space corps that also takes space-related troops and assets from the Army and Navy, 3) an independent service that takes from the Air Force, Army, and Navy, and 4) an independent service that takes from the three services plus parts of the intelligence community.

Vice President Mike Pence and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan — who are leading the reorganization of the military’s space operations — are scheduled to meet Thursday. The two are to discuss the options.

“As part of an ongoing review, the Department is developing options for a Space Force as a sixth military service branch to implement the President’s vision and guidance,” Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, a Defense Department spokesman, said in an email.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.

No matter which option is chosen, the new organization is likely to be called “Space Force”, according to an Oct. 26 White House memo to the Pentagon. The memo is from Scott Pace, who is the National Space Council’s executive secretary, and Earl Matthews, who directs defense policy and strategy at the National Security Council, and it asks the Pentagon for alternate recommendations.

“As we work to meet the President’s intent of establishing a separate but distinct branch of the Armed Forces for Space, [we] request that the Department of Defense provide analysis and recommendations to the President on the optimal organizational construct to meet his intent,” they wrote.

The memo asks the Pentagon to decide whether it would be “best served by the establishment … of a new independent military department or whether the new Space Force would be most effectively organized as a separate service within the Department of the Air Force.”

The latter option would likely mimic the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Navy. The Marines are run by a four-star general overseen by the civilian Navy secretary.

Four times in the two-page memo, Pace and Matthews stress that the Pentagon’s recommendations should meet the “President’s intent” of establishing a space force. The term “space corps” is not used in the memo.

The memo was sent four days after Defense One published details from a draft of the Pentagon’s proposal to Congress. That draft proposed an independent service that would draw assets from the three spacefaring services but not the National Reconnaissance Office or other parts of the intelligence community.

“[W]e're trying to produce what the President wants, which is a Space Force capability,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Nov. 21.

Mattis also downplayed the price tag associated with the new force, which remains a live argument in a Pentagon that President Trump may have told to cut spending. “For one thing it's simply a shifting of costs,” Mattis said. “It's not an increase, so we're trying to...get clarity to you on that.”

Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a space force would cost taxpayers an extra $300 million to $550 million each year. That’s because billions of dollars would be moved from the Air Force, Navy and Army budgets into the new service.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.