The U.S. President Donald Trump directed the Defense Department and the Pentagon to create a new Space Force as an independent sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Trump said on Monday during a meeting of the National Space Council.
Trump said that the branch would be “separate but equal” from the Air Force and that Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would oversee its creation. “Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” he added.
The President floated the idea for the force as a part of his national security strategy on March 13, saying “space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.” The president described then how he had originally coined the term as a joke, while discussing U.S. government spending and private investment in space. “We have the Air Force, we’ll have the space force,” Trump said in March.
In the National Defense Authorization Act, the House Armed Services Committee proposed last June the establishment of a space corps, a new branch of the military that would fall under the command of the Air Force. This branch’s relationship to the Air Force would be similar to the Marine Corps’ ties to the Navy. The space corps would have an area of responsibility that encompasses the vast expanse outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
That proposal was scrapped amid resistance from senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, who said it would create unnecessary costs and bureaucracy.
The Outer Space Treaty, which the United States signed in 1967, bars states from testing weapons and establishing military bases on the moon and other celestial bodies. It also prohibits the placement of weapons of mass destruction in orbit around Earth.