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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft lifts off. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images

Speaking alongside Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon Thursday, Vice President Pence announced that "establishing the Space Force is an idea whose time has come."

The big picture: The Vice President explained the Pentagon has begun the process of establishing Space Force as a 6th branch of the U.S. military by 2020, beginning with the establishment of a new combatant command overseen by a four-star general. However, only Congress has the power to establish a new branch of the military.

The details: Pence outlined the first stages of a plan that the Department of Defense will deliver to congress to develop a U.S. Space Force. The plan includes four pillars, including the need to "strengthen deterrence and warfighting options."

The report explains the Defense Department is requesting Congress appropriate another $8 billion for space security systems over the next 5 years and will work with Congress to enact a statutory authority in the National Defense Authorization Act for these programs.

Leading up to the establishment of a 6th branch of the military, the Defense Department has proposed to Congress that it will establish a Space Development Agency, a Space Operations Force, and a new U.S. Space Command to improve and evolve space warfighting, including integrating innovative force designs, concepts of operation, doctrines, tactics, techniques and procedures.

  • The development of this branch will require a new position of assistant secretary defense for space who will report directly to Secretary Mattis, Pence announced.

Quickly after Pence's announcement concluded, the president expressed his support for the development in a tweet.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The bottom line: The development of a Space Force comes in response to anti-satellite weaponry and other technologies by countries such as China and Russia, which Pence and Mattis cited as emerging threats that must be countered.

Go deeper

Updated 26 mins ago - Technology

Pandemic gave cover to online dating scams

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Crooked Casanovas used online dating scams to steal an estimated $500 million from lonely victims last year, according to a new analysis of government fraud data by Atlas VPN, an internet security provider.

Why it matters: The isolation of the lingering pandemic provided cover to fraudulent suitors who had an excuse for not meeting up in person even as they fleeced their would-be lovers out of gift cards, money — even cryptocurrency.

Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
43 mins ago - World

U.S. and Iran "in the ballpark" of a nuclear deal, Biden adviser says

Brett McGurk. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk says the U.S. and Iran "are in the ballpark of a possible deal" to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, but he “doesn’t want to put odds on it."

Why it matters: That's the most optimistic statement from the Biden administration since the nuclear talks resumed in Vienna last December. McGurk, who was speaking at a Carnegie Endowment event, didn’t explain the reasoning behind his assessment.