Feb 19, 2019

Trump moves closer to establishing the Space Force today

Photo illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

President Trump will sign a directive on Tuesday that will call for the formal establishment of a U.S. Space Force as a 6th branch of the armed services, to be housed within the Air Force.

The big picture: The president's directive, known as Space Policy Directive 4, would task the Defense Department with submitting a legislative proposal to Congress to establish the Space Force as an armed service within the Air Force. The proposal would include the designation of a chief of staff for the Space Force, who would sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as an undersecretary of defense for space.

  • In the meantime, the administration will set up a Unified Combatant Command for space, to be known as U.S. Space Command. This command will absorb the space-related responsibilities previously assigned to U.S. Strategic Command, according to a senior administration official.

What they're saying: Administration officials said the White House and Defense Department will submit the proposal to Capitol Hill to form a 6th branch of the military, on par with the Marine Corps that sits within the Navy, that would be dedicated to space.

  • Congress must approve the funds for the Space Force and will play a major role in determining how it is structured.
  • The idea of housing the force within the Air Force is seen as a move to satisfy critics on Capitol Hill who raised concerns about the cost of providing the infrastructure for an entirely new department.

In the meantime, the administration is moving to set up a unified combatant command for space that will be separate from the existing Air Force Space Command. The White House said it would not release a cost estimate for these changes until its Fiscal Year 2020 budget release next month.

Why it matters: The Trump administration says it's moving to create the Space Force in response to adversaries' increased space capabilities, particularly China.

  • The U.S. has long been dominant in space exploration and the military use of space, such as through spy satellites and a constellation of GPS satellites for navigation and weapons guidance.
  • Now, however, China and other countries are launching ambitious space programs, including military capabilities that could threaten American space assets.

Go deeper: Axios' deep dive on space

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Teenager killed after shots fired at protesters in Detroit

Detroit police during protests on Friday night. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

A 19-year-old man was killed on Friday night after shots were fired into a crowd of demonstrators in downtown Detroit who were protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, per AP.

Details: The teenager was injured when shots were fired from an SUV about 11:30 p.m. and later died in hospital, reports MDN reports, which noted police were still looking for a suspect. Police said officers were not involved in the shooting, according to AP.

Go deeper: In photos: Protesters clash with police nationwide over George Floyd

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Police officers grapple with protesters in Atlanta. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray as the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd spread nationwide on Friday evening.

The big picture: Police responded in force in cities ranging from Atlanta to Des Moines, Houston to Detroit, Milwaukee to D.C. and Denver to Louisville. In Los Angeles, police declared a stretch of downtown off limits, with Oakland issuing a similar warning.

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Supreme Court sides with California on coronavirus worship service rules

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's liberal justices, to reject a challenge to California's pandemic restrictions on worship services.

Why it matters: This is a setback for those seeking to speed the reopening of houses of worship, including President Trump.