Space Force: Mike Pence launches plans for sixth military service

Vice-president announced plans to create force by 2020, but any proposal to create a new branch requires congressional action

Mike Pence has announced plans for a new, separate US Space Force as a sixth military service by 2020.

The US vice-president said the development is needed to ensure America’s dominance in space amid heightened competition and threats from China and Russia.

In a speech at the Pentagon in Washington DC, Pence said that while space was once peaceful and uncontested, it is now crowded and adversarial.

“Previous administrations all but neglected the growing security threats emerging in space,” Pence said. “Our adversaries have transformed space into a war-fighting domain already, and the United States will not shrink from this challenge.”

Donald Trump has called for a “separate but equal” space force and has been seen as a key driving force behind the headline-grabbing move.

In a tweet Thursday, the president cheered on his number two’s speech. “Space Force all the way!” he wrote.

The proposal calls for the Space Force to become a new sixth branch of the military on par with the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard. If successful it would become the first new branch of the armed services to be created since 1947.

However, any proposal to create a new service would require congressional action and is likely to come under close scrutiny, especially from Democrats.

To prepare for the new force, Pence announced that the administration would put together an elite squad of service members to fight wars in space, known as the Space Operations Force and drawn from all parts of the military like the existing special forces.

There will also be a United States Space Command, which will develop doctrine and tactics for fighting wars in space.

And the administration plans to create an assistant secretary of defense for space, a position that would eventually turn into a head of the independent Space Force.

The defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has endorsed plans to reorganize the military’s current space-war fighting forces and create a new command, but has previously opposed launching an expensive separate new service. But he said this week he was in agreement with the White House.

Retired astronaut Capt Mark Kelly called the proposed space force a “dumb idea”, saying it would duplicate work already done by the air force.

“There is a threat out there, but it’s being handled by the US Air Force today. It doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy,” he told MSNBC.

Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said Republicans were too afraid to tell the president the idea was a bad one. “Although ‘Space Force’ won’t happen, it’s dangerous to have a leader who cannot be talked out of crazy ideas,” the Democrat tweeted.

But Alabama representative Mike Rogers said he was “thrilled” with the announcement. “We in the House have been warning for years about the threats to our space assets and the unacceptably slow pace to develop more capable space systems,” he said.

Pence said the White House is already talking to congressional leaders about getting the new branch approved.

“America will always seek peace, in space as on 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,” he said.


Erin Durkin and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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