The Defense Department will establish a sixth branch of the armed forces, the U.S. Department of the Space Force, by 2020, Vice President Mike Pence announced Aug. 9.
In a speech at the Pentagon, the vice president also announced plans to establish a new combatant command — U.S. Space Command — as well as a Space Operations Force and a new joint organization called the Space Development Agency.
The announcement follows a seven-week review by DOD, directed by President Donald J. Trump, of “the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”
A report outlining the results of the study was released later in the day.
“In his inaugural address to the nation, President Trump declared that the United States stands ‘at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space,’” Pence said.
Just as advances in aviation technology drove the emergence of air as a new battlefield in the 20th century, advances in space technology have made it clear that space is the new battlefield for the 21st century, the vice president said. The U.S. will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield, he said, and carry on the cause of liberty and peace into the next great frontier.
“The time has come to establish the United States Space Force,” Pence said.
The new branch will be separate from, but equal to, the five other branches, he said.
“To be clear: the Space Force will not be built from scratch, because the men and women who run and protect our nation’s space programs today are already the best in the world,” the vice president said.
“Across this department and our intelligence agencies, there are literally tens of thousands of military personnel, civilians and contractors operating and supporting our space systems — and together, they are the eyes and ears of America’s warfighters around the globe,” Pence said.
Peace through strength
Actions by U.S. adversaries make it clear that space is already a warfighting domain, the vice president said.
“For many years, nations from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground,” Pence said. “But recently, our adversaries have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself.”
In 2007, China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed one of its own satellites, the vice president said. And Russia is working on an airborne laser to disrupt space-based systems, he added.
“Both nations are also investing heavily in what are known as hypersonic missiles designed to fly up to 5 miles per second at such low altitudes that they could potentially evade detection by our missile defense radars,” Pence said. “In fact, China claimed to have made its first successful test of a hypersonic vehicle just last week.”
In every domain, America will always seek peace, the vice president said. “But history proves that peace only comes through strength,” he added. “And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength.”
The report released today represents a critical step toward establishing the Space Force, he said. It identifies several actions that DOD will take as the nation evolves its space capabilities, “and they are built on the lessons of the past,” Pence said.
First, the report calls for the creation of the U.S. Space Command, a new unified combatant command for space. “This new command … will establish unified command and control for our Space Force operations, ensure integration across the military, and develop the space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures of the future,” he said.
Second, the report calls for the establishment of a Space Operations Force — an elite group of joint war fighters, specializing in the domain of space, who will form the backbone of the nation’s newest armed service. This force will draw from across the military to provide space expertise in times of crisis and conflict, Pence said.
“Third, the report calls for a new joint organization — the Space Development Agency — that will ensure the men and women of the Space Force have the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities that they need and deserve,” he said.
Finally, the report calls for clear lines of responsibility and accountability to manage the process of establishing and growing the Space Force, including the appointment of an assistant secretary of defense for space, the vice president said.
“Creating a new branch of the military is not a simple process,” Pence noted. “It will require collaboration, diligence and, above all, leadership. As challenges arise and deadlines approach, there must be someone in charge who can execute, hold others accountable, and be responsible for the results.”
Ultimately, Congress must establish the new department, the vice president said. “Next February, in the president’s budget, we will call on the Congress to marshal the resources we need to stand up the Space Force, and before the end of next year, our administration will work with the congress to enact the statutory authority for the space force in the National Defense Authorization Act,” he said.