Senate GOP moving toward deal to break defense bill stalemate
Trump directs Pentagon to create 'space force'
President Trump on Monday announced that he's directing the Pentagon to create a "space force" as the Defense Department's sixth military service branch.
"When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space," Trump said during a meeting with members of the National Space Council (NSC).
"I'm 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. That's a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal."
The declaration follows statements made in March in which he endorsed the idea of creating an independent military branch for space.
"You know, I was saying it the other day - because we're doing a tremendous amount of work in space - I said, 'Maybe we need a new force, we'll call it the Space Force.' " Trump said during a speech to military personnel in San Diego.
Military officials, however, have been lukewarm on the idea in the past.
The House Armed Services Committee last year attempted but failed to establish in the annual defense policy bill a separate space corps within the Air Force. Air Force leaders, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford all opposed it.
The military heads warned it would be premature to create a separate space entity and add burdensome bureaucracy to the service.
And U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten in March told lawmakers that "someday we'll have a space corps or 'Space Force' in this country. But I don't think the time is right for that right now."
Trump on Monday directly addressed Dunford - who was attending the NSC meeting - and asked "if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored."
The Pentagon later released a statement, saying the officials "understand the President's guidance."
"Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy," chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
"Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders."
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who opposed the space force last year, said in a tweet that "now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart."
"The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don't want," he said. "Too many important missions at stake."
Supporters for a new Space Force, however, argue that Russia and China have created separate military arms for their respective space operations, and are both developing anti-satellite and electronic warfare weapons.
- This report was updated at 5:48 p.m.