Mattis: Pentagon, White House in 'complete agreement' on Space Force

Mattis: Pentagon, White House in 'complete agreement' on Space Force
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Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday that he “absolutely” supports the creation of a new space branch for the military, but declined to say whether it would be the separate Space Force President Trump has pressed for.

Mattis said he supports establishing a new combatant command for space and that the Pentagon is “in complete alignment with the president's concern about protecting our assets in space.”

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“We need to address space as a developing war fighting domain and a combatant command is certainly one thing that we can establish. This is a process we're in,” Mattis said outside the Pentagon prior to meeting with British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Pressed on whether a new combatant command would be the same as establishing a separate service, as the president wants, Mattis replied, “We are working our way through all this.”

Mattis added that he, Trump and Vice President Pence “are in complete agreement.”

Trump in June officially directed the Pentagon to “immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

“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.

“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said at the time.

A draft version of the Pentagon’s plans, however, showed the military was instead setting up a smaller combatant command, a new joint agency to buy military satellites and a new warfighting community — similar to U.S. Cyber Command, Defense One reported late last month.

Congressional action is needed to create an entirely new military branch.

The House Armed Services Committee last year tried but failed to establish a separate space corps within the Air Force in the annual defense policy bill.

Mattis, Air Force leaders and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford all opposed the move, calling it premature and bureaucratically burdensome.

Mattis said Tuesday that the Pentagon is working daily with Pence’s office and “with supporters on Capitol Hill and the relevant committees” to hash out what the space organization will look like.

There is no timeline for the space arm and details on its role are still being finalized.

The Pentagon on Aug. 1 was to deliver a report to Congress on how the Pentagon hopes to craft a Space Force, but that document was delayed.