“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to have merely an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.” Those were Donald Trump’s words when he first directed the Department of Defense and Pentagon to establish a United States Space Force (USSF) as the 6th branch of the United States Armed Forces directed by General Joseph Dunford. The USSF is intended to have control over military operations in outer space. It would absorb operations and duties of the Air Force Space Command. In a 2017 National Security Strategy, a document periodically prepared by the executive branch that outlines major national security concerns of the United States, The Pentagon’s top priority was cited as being the protection of space infrastructure. A report was issued in February of 2018 by the United States Intelligence Community that warned of Russia and China’s anti-satellite weapons that could shoot down United States satellites in the next two to three years. Pence stated, “Both countries have tested anti-satellite technology in the past and are now pursuing hypersonic weapons surpassing current missile-defense capabilities.” “Just as advances in aviation technology drove the emergence of air as a new battlefield in the 20th century, advances in space technology have made it clear that space is the new battlefield for the 21st century.”

He also addressed four fundamental steps that the United States Government would take to create the USSF including a new U.S. Space Command to unify leadership and ensure a smooth, military integration, a Space Development Agency to focus on research and advancing space technologies and war-fighting capabilities, new government structures to solidify the branch’s future, and “war fighters.” President Donald Trump first suggested a Space Force during a speech in March 2018 when he said, “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.” 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” which would be “separate but equal” from the United States Air Force. Three months later, he signed the Space Policy Directive-3 (SPD-3) which implements framework for space traffic management. President Trump is the first president to publicly call for a separate military branch for space. A provision in the House version of the 2018 U.S. defense budget requested the creation of the USSF. Leading the efforts are Reps. Mike Rogers (R AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN).  Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated that a space force, in addition to war fighting responsibilities, should have the roles of space debris cleanup and asteroid defense.

So, what is a space force? A space force is a military branch that conducts space warfare. There is only one country that had a space force. In an announcement on June 18, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed the establishment of the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Two studies are currently being done by Congress to determine the practicability of a space force. The first study will measure the extent that a space force would be necessary and the second study will examine the cost, the nature, and the implementation. What would a space force do? The U.S. military has not provided any specific information but they are working on ways to protect satellites from threats like jamming, blinding sensors by pointing lasers at them, and destruction by kinetic objects, such as missiles or other satellites.

In 1982, the U.S. Air Force established the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) to provide “space capabilities” for spaceflight missions, navigation, satellite communications, missile warning and space control. The AFSPC has units at Air Force bases all over the United States that provide space capabilities including services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of the Department of Defense, NASA and commercial launches of satellites. The early version of the U.S. Air Force existed as the U.S. Army Air Corps which was an aerial warfare sector of the U.S. Army. Congress later decided they needed to have a new branch of the military. Donald Rumsfeld led a Congressionally directed commission on national security space management in 2000. A number of reforms were recommended including a reorganization of the United States Air Force to take on space-related activities of the Department of Defense. A number of factors, including the September 11th attacks, prevented the reforms from implementation.  Many current and former Air Force, military, and space professionals are opposed to the measure. Some of the feedback was that the proposal will not address acquisition issues and that it will derail integration between space and other military domains. It could also cause additional unnecessary bureaucracy that could make acquisition and budget problems worse. There are also many supporters of proposal of a space force including NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Air Force Colonel and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former Air Force Colonel and astronaut Terry Virts, former astronaut David Wolf, former astronaut Clayton Anderson, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson who was an early opponent of the Space Corps proposal but is now in full alignment. Vice President Mike Pence in August 2018 announced a plan that would establish the Space Force by 2020.

***Update – On August 13, 2018, President Trump signed into law the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. It includes the re-establishment of the U.S. Space Command by the end of 2018. U.S. Space Command will be led 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 a full unified combatant command. Pence stated that actions by U.S. adversaries make it clear that space is already a warfighting domain. “For many years, nations from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground,” Pence said. “But recently, our adversaries have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself.” “Creating a new branch of the military is not a simple process,” Pence added. “It will require collaboration, diligence and, above all, leadership. As challenges arise and deadlines approach, there must be someone in charge who can execute, hold others accountable, and be responsible for the results.”