The Insider

Trump orders DOD to create 'space force'

June 18, 2018 at 12:48 PM

President Trump announced today he is directing the Defense Department to establish an independent "space force."

Trump said during a White House speech that he has ordered DOD to "immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces -- we are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the space force."

He wished Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford "luck" in creation of the new space force.

"There's no place like space," Trump said.

Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said DOD would begin working with the military services and Congress to implement Trump's directive.

"We understand the president's guidance," she said. "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."

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Inside Defense that although Trump's comments show that he is aligned with congressional proposals to create a new military space organization, the president does not have the authority to create the new military service without congressional approval.

However, Harrison noted, the greater effect of Trump's Space Force support will be to quash resistance to the move within the Air Force and the Pentagon, both of which have pushed back on recent large-scale space reorganization proposals.

Today's announcement from the White House could also disrupt some of the Pentagon's ongoing studies of alternative space organizational constructs -- particularly if the work thus far did not move them toward creating a separate space service.

A Senate Armed Services Committee staffer told Inside Defense the committee was not notified in advance of the president's speech.

Meanwhile, Trump's decision could also put him at odds with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who wrote to Congress last fall that he opposed the creation of a new and separate branch of the military for space.

"I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions," he wrote in an Oct. 17 letter sent to Capitol Hill.

Watch Inside Defense for more news on this breaking story.