Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump said today that he is "directing" the Pentagon “establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces,” to be called the “Space Force.”
Why it matters: If a Space Force is created, it would be the 6th branch of the Armed Forces, and its duties are as yet unclear. Trump said he would be "honored" if General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would direct it. Dunford, who was present at the ceremony, expressed support for the announcement when Trump said he wanted him to lead it.
Trump: "We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal. It is going to be something so important...General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out I would be very greatly honored also. Where is General Dunford? General? Got it?”
- Gen. Dunford: "We got you."
- Trump: “Let’s go get it, General.”
"It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space," Trump said. "We must have American dominance in space," Trump said at a meeting of the U.S. Space Council.
Details: Trump did not go into detail about what such a force would do or how it would overlap with existing space-oriented branches of the Air Force, such as the Air Force Space Command. However, this is not the first time that Trump has mentioned the idea for such an entity.
Confirmation: The White House confirmed Trump's action.
"Today at the National Space Council meeting, the President directed the Department of Defense to immediate[ly] begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary, told Axios in a statement.
"The President’s National Strategy for Space calls for American leadership, preeminence, and freedom of action in space, and he sees a separate service focused on space as a critical piece of that end state. The National Space Council and other White House offices will work closely with the Department of Defense on successful implementation of the President’s direction."— Raj Shah
The Chief Pentagon Spokesperson, Dana White, told Axios in a statement that the Pentagon understands "the President's guidance" and that its "Policy Board will begin working on this issue" along with Congress. A spokesman for the Air Force earlier in the day said he could not comment on whether the Pentagon has received a directive from the White House.
"We understand the President's guidance. Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders."— Dana White
- From Capitol Hill: Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat of the Senate Commerce committee, said generals have been telling him they don't want a Space Force.
- According to Politico, the Pentagon had contracted with CNA Corp. early in June to study the creation of a space force. It is unlikely that study was completed by Monday.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a White House statement.