Updated Jun 23, 2018

Go deeper: No, Trump didn't just create a "Space Force"

Photos: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is directing the Pentagon to establish a “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the armed forces — but the move is not as simple as his announcement suggested, and it's far from done yet.

The big picture: It wasn’t clear on the day of the announcement that Trump had signed a directive for the Pentagon to actually create the force — and the Pentagon is treating Trump's announcement as "guidance." Any creation of the force would also require congressional approval, and it's unclear at this time if the support is there to split a fully-fledged "Space Force" off from the U.S. Air Force (USAF), where military space operations are currently housed.

  • The bottom line: The personnel, budgeting, capability, and operations planning that would have to go into this decision cannot be completed with the stroke of a pen.

A smart take: This is reflective of Trump’s management style, the WSJ’s Andy Pasztor and Gordon Lubold write: "He occasionally offers seemingly ad hoc ideas in public, but at some point expects aides and cabinet officials to follow up with specific implementation plans."

  • It's not a total surprise from Trump. He has floated the idea before — first in March at a Southern California air base, and then again this May at a White House reception.

The pushback: There are undertones of resistance at the Pentagon among top military brass — generals have told Sen. Bill Nelson they do not support the move.

  • The Pentagon's official line: "We understand the President's guidance. Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue," said Dana White, chief Pentagon spokesperson.
  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee last year: “I opposed the creation of a new military service…at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead..."
  • The Air Force: Just a week before Trump made the announcement, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson met with the service’s senior commanders, and the conclusion was that “this will happen, but now is not the time,” a person who participated told the WSJ.

The history: It is possible to separate out some capabilities from existing branches of the armed forces and form new ones. The USAF was first created as a separate entity from the U.S. Army in 1947. Over the years it gradually acquired new capabilities, including missile operations, intelligence satellites, and, in 1982, the creation of the Space Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Yes, but: The baseline in international law leaves it unclear whether space can be used for military purposes, and there’s no general consensus among experts who analyze this issue, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

  • The 1967 Outer Space Treaty contains no language that specifically prohibits militarizing space, except when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, like nuclear weapons. It is required that all states’ use of the Moon and other celestial bodies is for “peaceful purposes.”
  • Exploring and using outer space must be done for the benefit of all countries and all exploration and use must follow international law, like the U.N. Charter, per the treaty.

Why it matters: China has vowed to shoot ahead in the race to gain technical acumen in space. On Friday, after Trump announced his guidance, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discussed China’s and Russia’s ability to threaten American space assets Friday before Congress.

Go deeper

America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."