United States Space Force

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The United States Space Force (USSF) is a proposed[1] sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces intended to have control over military operations in outer space. It would absorb the operations and duties of the Air Force Space Command, a major command of the United States Air Force that currently handles and supports most of the country's military operations in space.


In 2017, the National Security Strategy cited the protection of space infrastructure as one of The Pentagon's top priorities.[2] A report by the United States Intelligence Community in February 2018 warned that Russia's and China's anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons could shoot down American satellites within two or three years, endangering the country's navigation, communications, and reconnaissance networks.[3]


Early proposals[edit]

In 2000, Donald Rumsfeld led a Congressionally directed commission on national security space management and organization that recommended a number of reforms including an internal reorganization of the United States Air Force (USAF) to consolidate the space-related activities of the Department of Defense (DoD)—policy, acquisition, and operations—under the Undersecretary of the Air Force, who would act as the Department’s Executive Agent for Space.[4] Implementation of the reforms recommended by the Commission by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld were not completed due to a number of factors including the September 11 attacks and advent of the Iraq War.[5]

In 2017, a "United States Space Corps" was proposed as the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces that would absorb the United States Air Force's space warfare mission, which is currently conducted by Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). Many current and former Air Force, military, and space professionals are opposed to the measure, stating that such a proposal will not address acquisition issues, will derail integration between space and other military domains, and cause additional unnecessary bureaucracy that could make acquisition and budget problems worse, rather than better. Rather, they propose giving space more autonomy in the Air Force and creating a Rapid Capabilities Office dedicated to space acquisition.[6][7]

In June 2017, the United States House Committee on Armed Services (HASC) voted to include language creating the U.S. Space Corps in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.[8] The new service would be administered by the United States Secretary of the Air Force, much as how the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy, and guarantee it an equal seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[9] A provision in the House version of the 2018 U.S. defense budget requested the creation of the Space Corps.[9] The top Republican and Democrat on the strategic forces subcommittee, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), are leading this effort. Some members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ), a retired Air Force colonel, and Mike Turner (R-OH) expressed concern that this proposal did not have any hearings or studies on it, and just heard about the proposal during the markup session.[10][11] United States Senate Committee on Armed Services members Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John McCain (R-AZ), a former Naval Aviator, and Bill Nelson (D-FL), a retired Army Captain and Astronaut, expressed skepticism and opposition regarding the need for the creation of the Space Corps. Senator Nelson introduced an amendment to ban the creation of the Space Corps or any other similar service, which was passed by the Senate.[12][13][14][15]

The establishment of a space branch was opposed by the DoD, USAF, AFSPC, U.S. Strategic Command, and military leaders such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul J. Selva, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force General David L. Goldfein, the current commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General John E. Hyten, and the current commander of Air Force Space Command General John W. Raymond.[16][17][18][19][20][21] Other former military and space leaders in opposition to this effort include Secretary Ash Carter, former Secretary of Defense; Secretary Sean O'Keefe, former United States Secretary of the Navy and NASA Administrator; Secretary Deborah Lee James, former Secretary of the Air Force; Secretary Michael B. Donley, former Secretary of the Air Force; Secretary Lisa Disbrow, former United States Under Secretary of the Air Force; General C. Robert Kehler, former commander of United States Strategic Command and former commander of Air Force Space Command; General Victor E. Renuart Jr., former commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD); and Lieutenant General Edward G. Anderson III, former deputy commander of United States Northern Command and NORAD.[22][23][24][25] The former commander of Air Force Space Command, General Lance W. Lord, is supportive of the effort, on the condition that the Army's and Navy's space programs are absorbed into the new Space Corps.[26]

The specific language in the House bill authorizing the creation of the Space Corps was in H.R. 2810 Title XVI, Subtitle A, section 1601, §8091.[27] The idea of a separate Space Corps was killed in conference. Instead, the 2018 NDAA boosted the position of Air Force Space Command by extending the term of its commander to six years, and making it the sole command for all Air Force space forces.[28][29]

Current proposal[edit]

President Trump holds up Space Policy Directive-3 at the White House on June 18, 2018

President Donald Trump first suggested a Space Force during a speech in March 2018: "We're doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said, maybe we need a new force. We'll call it the space force".[30] In a meeting with the newly revived National Space Council, he signed Space Policy Directive-3 (SPD-3) on June 18, which implements a framework for space traffic management. A widely reported development from the meeting was his call for a Space Force, which is not mentioned in SPD-3.[31] Before signing it, he directed the DoD and The Pentagon "to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces" that would be "separate but equal" from the Air Force.[32] He asked General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to undertake that assignment.[32] The president announced this proposal, in part, due to his feeling that the DoD had been spurning his earlier public suggestions to create a space force. The DoD was surprised by his announcement.[33][34] According to Congressman Mike Rogers, a proponent of the space corps proposal, Trump made the surprise announcement on national TV to silence opponents of the measure within the White House and the military.[35]

Defense Secretary Mattis, a critic of a space corps proposal in 2017, has stated space "is becoming a contested war-fighting domain, and we have to adapt to that reality."[3] Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James opposed an independent space arm, believing that since it would be the smallest armed service ever created, it would be detrimental to space operations, and instead supports the reestablishment of a unified combatant command for space.[36] Similarly, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution has argued that air and space operations need to be closely linked and it is unclear how separating them will be more effective in protecting satellites.[37]

Congress directed two studies to examine the viability of a space force: the first is due in August 2018 and the second is due in December 2018.[36] According to Rogers, the first study assesses to what extent a space force would be necessary, while the second one examines its nature, implementation, and costs.[38] On July 18, it was reported that the DoD was putting its "final touches" on the first report according to Air Force chief General David Goldfein.[39] The Center for Naval Analyses was hired to conduct the second report, which was ordered to "provide more specifics" on how to pave the way for the creation of a space force.[36]

Vice President Mike Pence in August 2018 announced a plan that would establish the Space Force by 2020.[40]

On August 13, 2018, President Trump signed into law, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (Public Law No: 115-232). It includes the re-establishment of the U.S. Space Command by the end of 2018. U.S. Space Command will be lead by a four-star general or admiral and will temporarily be a sub-unified combatant command under U.S. Strategic Command, until it can be separated as a full unified combatant command.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. Space Force: President Trump Proposes 6th Military Branch - InvestorPlace". Investorplace.com. 19 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  2. ^ Davenport, Christian (April 13, 2018). "Trump wants to stand up a military 'Space Force.' Here’s why.". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Cooper, Helene (August 9, 2018). "Pence Advances Plan to Create a Space Force". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  4. ^ Rumsfeld, Donald (August 2011). "Enduring Issues: The Space Commission 10 Years Later" (PDF). High Frontier. 
  5. ^ Berman, Russell (August 8, 2017). "Does the U.S. Military Need a Space Corps?". The Atlantic. 
  6. ^ "Debate intensifies over Rogers' Space Corps proposal — SpaceNews.com". Spacenews.com. 8 September 2017. 
  7. ^ "DXC's Earl Matthews: Budget to Hinder Proposed Space Corps as USAF Balances Priority Areas — GovCon Wire". Govconwire.com. 
  8. ^ "House panel votes to split Air Force, create new U.S. Space Corps". FederalNewsRadio.com. 2017-06-29. Retrieved 2017-07-04. 
  9. ^ a b "Congressional panel puts plans for a US Space Corps in 2018 defense budget". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2017-07-04. 
  10. ^ "War in Space: Congress May Add a New Military Branch Amid China, Russia Satellite Threats". Newsweek.com. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  11. ^ Tritten, Jamie McIntyre, Travis. "Space Corps, LCS survive as House panel passes $696 billion defense authorization bill". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  12. ^ Gould, Joe (25 July 2017). "Senators sending lofty Space Corps hopes down to Earth". Airforcetimes.com. 
  13. ^ "Ships, aircraft and the Space Corps: Senate preps for defense policy bill debate". Washingtonexaminer.com. 11 September 2017. 
  14. ^ "Senate Rejects House Plan To Form Space Corps — Defense Daily Network". Defensedaily.com. 15 September 2017. 
  15. ^ "Should we fund the militarization of space?". Marketplace.org. 
  16. ^ Kheel, Rebecca (18 July 2017). "Top general opposes Space Corps plans". Thehill.com. 
  17. ^ "Air Force Opposes Creation of Space Corps". Roll Call. 2017-06-22. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
  18. ^ "We Need to Focus on Space; We Don't Need a 'Space Corps'". Defenseone.com. 
  19. ^ "Jim Mattis urges House to abandon Space Corps proposal". Washingtonexaminer.com. 12 July 2017. 
  20. ^ "AF Space Command on Twitter". Twitter. 
  21. ^ Gould, Joe (21 November 2017). "Space for a Space Corps? Congress lays groundwork for controversial plan". Defensenews.com. 
  22. ^ "Air Force Magazine". Airforcemag.com. Retrieved 2018-06-19. 
  23. ^ "US Lawmakers Call for Space Force, Boost to Military Drills in Europe". Defenseone.com. Retrieved 10 July 2017.  "There may soon be a new US military service — for space". Vox.com. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  24. ^ "General Begins, Ends Military Career at Fort Carson". Northcom.mil. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  25. ^ "Donley, Kehler Join Anti-Space Corps Chorus While House Moves Ahead". Spacepolicyonline.com. 
  26. ^ "Lamborn-backed space corps proposal raising concerns". Gazette.com. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  27. ^ Mac, Thornberry, (12 December 2017). "Text — H.R.2810 — 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018". Congress.gov. 
  28. ^ "Space Corps Crashes to Earth in Negotiated Defense Bill". Defensetech.org. 8 November 2017. 
  29. ^ Drew, James (8 Nov 2017). "U.S. Air Force Avoids Space Corps Split—For Now". Aviation Week. Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. Retrieved 19 June 2018. 
  30. ^ Koren, Marina (March 13, 2018). "What Does Trump Mean By 'Space Force'?". The Atlantic. 
  31. ^ Harrison, Todd (June 19, 2018). "How Does Space Policy Directive 3 Affect Space Traffic Management?". Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  32. ^ a b "Remarks by President Trump at a Meeting with the National Space Council and Signing of Space Policy Directive-3". White House. June 18, 2018. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  33. ^ Pasztor, Andy; Lubold, Gordon (22 June 2018). "Pentagon Had Spurned U.S. Space Force, Prompting Trump's Decree". Wsj.com. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  34. ^ Alexander, Harriet (22 June 2018). "Space Force: Donald Trump's announcement of sixth branch of the armed forces 'surprised the Pentagon'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  35. ^ "Rogers: Trump ordered Space Force on live TV to thwart Pentagon foes". Al.com. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  36. ^ a b c James, Deborah Lee (June 27, 2018). "Plotting a Space (Force) Time Continuum". The Cipher Brief. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  37. ^ O'Hanlon, Michael (June 27, 2018). "There’s No ‘Jungle Force.’ Who Needs a Space Force?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  38. ^ Erwin, Sandra (June 21, 2018). "Rep. Mike Rogers: Space Force will be done ‘responsibly’ with minimal disruption". SpaceNews. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  39. ^ Seyler, Matt (July 18, 2018). "Air Force chief of staff talks Space Force: 'I love the fact that the president is leading that discussion'". ABC News. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  40. ^ Clark, Dartunorro (2018-08-09). "Pence launches Space Force, says U.S. needs to prepare for 'next battlefield' "As President Trump has said, in his words, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space — we must have American dominance in space," Pence said at the Pentagon Thursday." NBC News. Retrieved 2018-08-09. 

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