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Dem: Trump 'Space Force' would 'rip the Air Force apart'

Dem: Trump 'Space Force' would 'rip the Air Force apart'
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Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is pushing back on President Trump’s declaration that the Pentagon will create a new military branch dedicated to space, warning that such a move will “rip the Air Force apart.”

Trump on Monday announced that he's directing the Defense Department to create a “Space Force” as its sixth military service branch. The new branch would be “separate but equal” from the Air Force, which currently oversees all space-related activity in the armed services.

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The commander in chief made the declaration at a meeting with members of the National Space Council, during which he personally asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford “to carry that assignment out.”

“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,” Nelson wrote on Twitter shortly thereafter. “Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake.”

Nelson — who led the opposition in last year’s failed attempt to establish in the annual defense policy bill a separate space corps within the Air Force — made a similar statement during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March.

“I’m not too keen on ripping space out of the Air Force and creating a space corps,” Nelson said, during a briefing with U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten.

The House Armed Services Committee was unable to successfully insert the provision in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but the bill did include several reforms to the military’s space operations. Among them is a provision that requires the deputy secretary of Defense to study the possibility of creating a space corps in the future.

Military heads hoped the study would hold off the creation of a separate space branch, which they opposed last year during the bill’s debate in Congress. 

At the time, Secretary Heather Wilson said a space corps would just “add more boxes to the organization chart.” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein said talk about a separate military branch for space is “moving in the wrong direction.”

The White House last year also opposed the space corps plan and said creating it was “premature at this time.”

In addition, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Dunford didn’t approve of a space corps, with Mattis sending a letter of opposition to Congress.

But the White House seems to have changed its tune since then. Trump in March endorsed the idea of an independent military branch for space during a speech to military personnel in San Diego.

After that speech, Nelson told The Hill that once Trump talks to the Air Force about the idea, “I think he will get a different consideration, that there shouldn’t be, that all of that is being handled by the Air Force now.”