United States Space Force
The U.S. government announced on 29 August 2019 a decision to establish the U.S. Space Force to defend its interests in space. "This is a landmark day, one that recognizes the centrality of space to America's security and defense," President Donald Trump said in a White House ceremony joined by John Raymond, the first commander of U.S. Space Command.
Trump ordered the establishment of Space Command in late 2018, making it the 11th unified combatant command of the U.S. Department of Defense. The newly established Space Command is built to "protect America's dominance in space" by "employing assigned forces from every branch of the military" and "delivering combat power by operating superior space capabilities such as communications, intelligence, navigation, and early missile detection and warning," according to a White House statement.
The new command is believed to be a step towards building an independent Space Force, a plan that still requires Congress approval. "As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a press conference.
US President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on 18 December 2018, authorising the Department of Defense to create a Space Force, a new organisational structure within the Pentagon that will have overall control of military space operations. The move will recreate a US Space Command, which existed from 1985 to 2002. It was disbanded in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks so US Northern Command could be established. The Space Command's functions were absorbed by US Strategic Command, and the Air Force retained its lead role in space through Air Force Space Command. The command will be tasked with accelerating technical advances and finding more effective ways to defend US assets in space, including the vast constellations of satellites that US forces rely on for navigation, communications and surveillance.
Trump's order is separate from his oft-stated goal of creating a "Space Force" as an independent armed service branch, but it's considered a step in that direction. Critics of a Space Force have said it is misguided and money should instead be spent on initiatives and programmes on earth, including education and improving access to healthcare.
The move will launch a long and complicated process, requiring the Defense Department to pull together various space units and agencies from across the military services into a more coordinated, independent organisation. The US Air Force's existing Space Command would be a key component of the new joint entity, raising space to the same status as US Cyber Command. Establishing Space Command is a critical step in accelerating our space capabilities and posture to defend our vital national interests and deter our adversaries. This combatant command will lead space operations and develop space warfighting doctrine, tactics, and techniques.
The first steps in 2019 will be to nominate top leaders for Space Command, including a four-star general and a deputy. The command would likely at least begin to take form in Colorado, where the current Joint Functional Component Command for Space is already located. But there has been no final decision on a location. The new command could cost as much as $800m over the next five years. Funding will be included in the budget for the fiscal year 2020, which will be unveiled in February.
The military has been trying for decades to reorganise and accelerate technological advances in space. Some blame the Air Force for underinvesting in space because it prefers spending on warplanes. The military's role in space has been under scrutiny because the US is increasingly reliant on orbiting satellites that are difficult to protect.
US intelligence agencies reported earlier this year that Russia and China were pursuing "nondestructive and destructive" anti-satellite weapons for use during a future war. And there are growing worries about cyberattacks that could target satellite technology, potentially leaving troops in combat without electronic communications or navigation abilities.
The US is planning to create The Space Force, a new branch of the US military, by 2020, Vice President Mike Pence announced on 10 August 2018. It would become the US military's sixth branch, following the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. "America will always seek peace in space, as on the Earth. But history proves that peace only comes through strength, and in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead," Pence said in an address to the Pentagon.
The Space Force will be part of President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. His team sent an email following the announcement asking supporters to vote for their favourite Space Force logo.
President Donald Trump signed a directive that ordered the Pentagon to establish US Space Force that would operate as the sixth branch of armed forces within the Air Force. "The Department of Defense shall take actions under existing authority… to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces within the Department of the Air Force," the directive stated on 19 February 2019.
The directive also ordered the Pentagon to develop a legislative proposal that would require congressional approval for the Space Force to be established. Although the Space Force would initially operate as part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy, the eventual goal is for the Space Force to operate as an independent branch of the military, the directive explained.
The push to create a US space force was prompted by efforts of potential adversaries to develop space-based military capabilities, according to the directive. Civilian agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would not be part of the Space Force, the directive said.
In his final speech as president, Space Force was one of many accomplishments Trump pointed to in touting the success of his administration, calling it “a major achievement for a regular administration,” but noting his was not treated as a regular administration. It remained to be seen how Space Force will fare under Biden’s administration, but his pick for defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, told lawmakers this week that, if confirmed, he will “ensure the space domain is carefully considered across the range of upcoming strategic reviews.”
The fresh military branch, however, has remained a point of mockery for Trump critics. A television series, aptly titled ‘Space Force,’ even debuted on Netflix last year and was a satirical look at the formation of the organization. Despite Trump losing reelection, it has been renewed for a second season. Trump listing the branch as one of his successes in his four years in the White House was lambasted by Biden supporters almost as much as the presence of the flag at the inauguration did.
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