Trump just signed a prime directive on the Space Force. Now it’s up to Congress to make it so
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President Donald Trump has formally outlined how his administration plans to stand up the Space Force as the sixth U.S. military service – if Congress approves.
On Tuesday, Trump signed a directive that calls for the Defense Department to submit a proposal to Congress that would make Space Force fall under Department of the Air Force, a senior administration official said.
If Congress approves the creating of the new military branch, Space Force would be led by a military chief of staff, who would also be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a civilian Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space, the senior administration official said.
Eventually, Space Force would come under the purview of an independent military department for space.Space Force would be made up of the service members and Defense Department civilians from all of the military branches who are already supporting space operations, the official said. It would also create career tracks for uniformed and civilian space personnel.
The Defense Department has no plans to ask Congress to include NASA or any other non-military space organizations into Space Force, the official said.
One unresolved question is how much Space Force will cost. The Defense Department plans to ask for less than $100 million for the military branch as part of the fiscal 2020 budget, senior administration officials said on Tuesday. The total cost could be less than $5 billion, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters in November.
“Within the coming weeks we will submit our legislative proposal to Congress to authorize the establishment of the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said on Tuesday.
Separately, the U.S. military has already taken steps to create a new combatant command dedicated exclusively to space. Currently, space operations are overseen by U.S. Strategic Command, which is also responsible for the U.S. military's nuclear mission.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in January that he has someone in mind to lead Space Command but he did not say who that person was.
Establishing Space Command is, “The most important step we take going forward – and the one we need to do the quickest,” Air Force Gen. David Goldfein said on Tuesday before Trump signed the directive.
“We as service chiefs know how to organize, train, equip, and present ready forces to a combatant commander,” Goldfein said at the liberal Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C. “I'll use SOCOM [Special Operations Command] as an example: I know how to take airmen, give them the training they need, present them to the SOCOM commander, and have Gen. [Raymond] Thomas give them a higher level of training, give them some specific equipment, and he fights them in a global campaign.”
“I expect the exact same model for the U.S. Space Command commander,” he continued. “The difference is that in special operations command, all the services have rather robust elements that they offer to the combatant commander. When it comes to Space Command as the supported commander, upwards of 80 to 90 % of the force that we'll present will be airmen.”