President Donald Trump on Monday relaunched his call for a Space Force and used a National Space Council meeting to direct the Pentagon ASAP to create a new command in the Defense Department.
One problem: Congress needs to sign off on the plan first - and it probably won't any time soon.
"It is not enough merely to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space. So important," the president said before saying he would direct the Pentagon "to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Services."
"We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force," Trump continued, instructing U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to carry out the assignment. "Separate but equal. It is going to be something."
Several times before and as recently as last month, the president has promoted the idea of a fighting force dedicated to defending the United States and its interests in Earth's orbit and beyond. But the proposal has languished in Congress, most recently when the House last month rejected a plan that would have carved out space-related combat functions from the Air Force.
The president needs congressional authorization to approve the move and cover the costs of such a realignment.
Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and a leading voice on space issues in Congress, wrote in a tweet shortly after the president's comment that "now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake."
The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don’t want. Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake. https://t.co/uYzqg1W8nE- Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) June 18, 2018
There's general consensus among lawmakers that it's time to grant special attention to military space issues - but not how it should be done.
The House last year approved a proposal from Alabama GOP Rep. Mike Rogers to create a Space Corps, which would be the first new military branch since the Air Force was broken out of the Army in 1947.
The Alabama Republican contends the Pentagon's lack of focus on extraterrestrial priorities has eroded the nation's dominance in space. Military satellites aren't being deployed fast enough because of a bureaucracy that cares more about superiority in the air than space, said Rogers, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
Under Rogers' plan, the Space Corps' primary purpose would be to oversee the acquisition, development and deployment of military satellites and the ground stations that control them. It would not include intelligence satellites or the National Reconnaissance Office, the government agency in charge of designing building, launching and maintaining intelligence satellites.
The Space Corps also would not have direct oversight of missile launches conducted by the military.
At the time, Trump administration officials resisted the idea.
"The Pentagon is complicated enough,' Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters last year. "We're trying to simplify. So to make it more complex would add more boxes to the (organizational) chart and cost more money. And if I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.'
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