President Trump is set to sign off on a policy directive ordering the creation of a Space Force, a sixth branch of the military, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday.
The move is the latest in a series of bureaucratic moves needed before the administration sends Congress a formal proposal calling for the creation of a Space Force. What’s still unknown is whether the proposal will call for a fully independent service, akin to the Army or Navy, or one that is part of the Air Force, as the Marine Corps is part of the Navy.
Pentagon officials had been working to stand up a fully independent branch, complete with a secretary and chief of staff. But then in late October, the President Trump’s National Security Council sent a memo to the Pentagon asking it to go back and look at different ways to reorganize the military’s space operations. One of those was the establishment of a new service within the Air Force.
Last week, two “primary options” were being considered, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the Pentagon official who has been spearheading the team building the Space Force legislative proposal.
“We're now down to one option,” Shanahan said on Dec. 13.”I'm really not in a position to disclose what that one option is. But I can tell you that the legislative proposal itself, probably tomorrow, will start to go through the build-in for coordination.”
It’s still unclear whether Congress will support a Space Force.
On Tuesday, Pence was at Kennedy Space Center in Florida announcing that Trump had formally directed the creation of U.S. Space Command, the military’s 11th combatant command. The command will oversee military operations in space across the Air Force, Army, and Navy.
“This action reflects the value of space contributions to national security, the evolution of the threats to U.S. space systems, and the importance of deterring potential adversaries from attacking U.S. space systems,” Shanahan tweeted Tuesday after the announcement. “It is urgent that we address space as a warfighting domain and this combatant command is a critical step in that direction. U.S. Space Command will allow us to accelerate our space capabilities to defend our National interests and deter our adversaries.”
The creation of U.S. Space Command has been under consideration since March. This summer, the Pentagon said it planned to stand up the new command by the end of the year. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said asked Trump to approve the new command and nominate a general or admiral to lead it in October.