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Mike Pence announcing a new step for Space Force. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday the administration and the Pentagon were moving forward with steps to make the proposed Space Force a separate, sixth branch of the military.

The big picture: Despite fanfare from the Trump administration and its supporters, opinions on whether or not the Space Force as a separate branch of the military is necessary, are split.

Pence, the "point man" on the matter, said Thursday morning the Space Force is the "next great chapter" in the history of America's armed forces. The administration is preparing for what he called the "next battlefield" where America will have to defeat a "new generation" of threats.

What they're saying

Former Astronaut Mark Kelly appeared on MSNBC following the announcement and called the Space Force proposal "redundant and wasteful" because the Air Force currently handles threats the Space Force would. He continued, saying "the only person I've heard say this is a fantastic idea is the Commander in Chief."

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) suggested there were more pressing matters the administration needed to take care of, including health care. "Not real action to lower Americans' health care costs and preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

Rep. Brian Schatz (D-HI) also took the opportunity to highlight the medical insurance argument, saying a Space Force is a "silly but dangerous" idea and that the administration should expand medicaid instead.

On the other side:

Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN) released a joint statement on the Space Force roll-out plan saying that there has been a need to "protect our space assets and to develop more capable space systems." They called it a "multi-year" process that will result in a "safer, stronger America."

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) came out in support of the Trump Administration's plan, saying it's critical to defending the country's national security interests while living in an age of "highly advanced weaponry," and space defense systems.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told CNN's Anderson Cooper that an independent branch may not be such a weird idea, explaining "it’s something that has precedent." He said he doesn't have a strong opinion either way, and cited the development of the Air Force after WWII "when we realized that the air space was becoming a more developed place….it required different training for personnel. It became sensible to spawn that off to its own branch. No one today questions that."

Go deeper

First look: Mayors press Biden on immigration

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A coalition of nearly 200 mayors and county executives is challenging Joe Biden and the incoming Congress to adopt a progressive immigration agenda that would give everyone a pathway to citizenship.

Why it matters: The group's goals, set out in a white paper released today, seem to fall slightly to the left of what the president-elect plans to propose on Inauguration Day — though not far — and come at a time of intense national polarization over immigration.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
9 mins ago - Health

Demand for coronavirus vaccines is outstripping supply

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Now that nearly half of the U.S. population could be eligible for coronavirus vaccines, America is facing the problem experts thought we’d have all along: demand for the vaccine is outstripping supply.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s call for states to open up vaccine access to all Americans 65 and older and adults with pre-existing conditions may have helped massage out some bottlenecks in the distribution process, but it’s also led to a different kind of chaos.

Woman who allegedly stole laptop from Pelosi's office to sell to Russia is arrested

Photo: FBI

A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.

Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.