Trump directs creation of Space Command as 11th combatant command

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE on Tuesday directed the Pentagon to create Space Command, a unified combatant command meant to lay the groundwork for his proposal to create Space Force.

“Pursuant to my authority as the Commander in Chief and under section 161 of title 10, United States Code, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I direct the establishment, consistent with United States law, of United States Space Command as a functional Unified Combatant Command,” Trump said in a memo to the Pentagon on Tuesday.

In addition to Trump’s memo, Vice President Pence announced the establishment of Space Command during a speech Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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“Under [Trump’s] leadership, the United States is taking steps to ensure that American national security is as dominant in space as it is here on Earth. To that end, it is my privilege to announce that today, President Trump will direct the Department of Defense to establish a combatant command that will oversee all our military activities in space,” Pence said at the space center, where he was scheduled to attend a satellite launch.

In June, Trump directed the Pentagon to create a Space Force, followed in August by Pence outlining the administration’s plans for it to become the sixth branch of the military by 2020.

Among the steps that Pence laid out to prepare for Space Force was the creation of a Space Command.

Congress also directed the creation of Space Command in this year’s annual defense policy bill.

As the military’s 11th combatant command, Space Command will be on par with geographic commands such as Central Command and functional commands such as Strategic Command.

While a Space Command currently exists under the Air Force, establishing Space Command as a unified combatant command will provide a home for each military branch’s space elements.

“At President Trump’s direction, the U.S. Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military,” Pence said. “It will develop the space doctrine, techniques, tactics and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era.”

In his memo, Trump said Space Command will take all the space-related responsibilities previously assigned to Strategic Command.

The memo also directed Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman Mattis16 times Trump said ISIS was defeated, or soon would be Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief under investigation over Boeing ties | Trump uses visual aids to tout progress against ISIS | Pentagon, Amnesty International spar over civilian drone deaths Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing MORE to recommend officers to be nominated as the commander and deputy commander of Space Command, subject to Senate confirmation.

Unlike Space Force, Space Command does not need congressional approval to be established. Pence said Tuesday that Trump will sign another directive in the "days ahead" that establishes a new space policy, including plans and a timeline for the creation of Space Force. The administration is "working as we speak" with members of Congress in both parties to stand up Space Force by the end of 2020, Pence added.

The Pentagon has said it will send Congress its legislative proposal for Space Force in February.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee have both expressed skepticism at plans for Space Force, in part because of cost.

In September, a widely-leaked Air Force memo pegged the costs in the first five years at $13 billion. Supporters of Space Force accused the Air Force of inflating the costs to drive opposition. 

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who is leading the Pentagon’s planning, has estimated the costs will be in the single-digit billions, likely falling between $5 billion and $10 billion.