President Donald J. Trump is Building the United States Space Force for a 21st Century Military

Credit: Matt Wade

White House Press Release

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

— President Donald J. Trump

BUILDING SPACE FORCE: President Donald J. Trump and his Administration are laying the groundwork to build Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military.

  • On June 18, 2018, President Trump directed the Department of Defense to immediately begin the important process of establishing Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.
  • The Department of Defense issued a report, pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, describing the following five actions that can be taken immediately to begin building the Space Force:
    • Accelerate space technology and development initiatives, which were modernization priorities laid out in President Trump’s National Defense Strategy;
    • Establish a Space Development Agency charged with developing and fielding new next-generation capabilities for national security space development;
    • Establish a Space Operations Force of professionals who will form a new community of experts working to lead America’s national security space efforts into the future;
    • Establish an operating structure and accountable civilian oversight for Space Force; and
    • Create a United States Space Command, a unified combatant command, to improve, evolve, and plan space warfighting.

DEFENDING AMERICA’S INTERESTS: President Trump knows that space is integral to our American way of life and economic prosperity, and is a vital domain for national defense.

  • With Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States military, America’s interests in space will receive the focus and investment that the domain deserves.
  • As the world’s space development leader, the United States relies on space for everything from popular commercial systems to critical military and intelligence systems.
  • Space is also invaluable to American private industry, which is developing revolutionary technologies that will utilize space for exploration, resource extraction, and tourism.
  • Unfortunately, potential adversaries recognize the importance of space to our country and are actively developing ways to deny our use of it in a crisis.
    • The Director of National Intelligence has warned that multiple countries, including Russia and China, are developing both destructive and nondestructive antisatellite weapons that could come online within a few years.
  • The United States national security community recognizes the necessity of developing new technologies for space to defend against an increasing array of threats.

LEADING INTO THE FUTURE: Under President Trump, America is reclaiming its heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring Nation and is leading space development into the 21st century.

  • President Trump has signed three Space Policy Directives in the last year, each of which strengthens our economic prosperity and national security.
  • In 2017, President Trump established his National Space Council, a body of senior officials charged with developing modern policies for commercial and international space utilization.
  • On March 23, 2018, President Trump announced his National Space Strategy, which recognizes that America’s competitors have turned space into a warfighting domain, and charts a whole-of-government approach to maintaining America’s leadership in space.

  • Kirk

    The president has indicated that he will sign the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act on Monday at Ft. Drum.

    Sec. 1601. “Improvements to acquisition system, personnel, and organization of space forces.” which establishes the United States Space Command as a subordinate unified command under the United States Strategic Command. (A unified command is one composed of forces from multiple military departments, and would not restrict the breadth of an officer’s service in the same way that an independent Space Force would.)

    Sec. 1603. “Rapid, responsive, and reliable space launch.” which renames the EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) program to the “National Security Space Launch program” effective March 1, 2019 and also contains language to encourage the consideration of reusable launch vehicles.

    I’ve not perused all 19 “Space Activities” sections.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Strategic Command is, and should remain a doomsday organization. They should have one function, end the world. Putting them into the space force blurs the sharp delineation that currently exists between conventional warfare and nuclear warfare. Melding conventional and nuclear warfare is huge structural mistake. No doubts this structural change is being put forward by the ‘prompt global strike’ folks who want to use conventional munitions to attack an enemies nuclear force. I understand the attraction to do that, but it comes with huge implications for even more insane escalation sequences than we had in the 1970’s and 80’s. Keeping Strategic Command out of conventional warfare would be a structural part of maintaining a barrier between conventional warfare and nuclear warfare.

  • Larry J

    The old Strategic Air Command (SAC) had the public relations motto of “Peace is our Profession.” It was the cynics and wags who said, “War is just a hobby.”

    Before US Space Command was rolled into USSTRATCOM in the early 2000s as the Joint Functional Combatant Command for Space (JFCC_Space), it was primarily focused on setting joint policy. A new US Space Command that is focused on operations and acquisition should be an improvement.

  • Robert G. Oler

    its dead Jim

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’ll grant you there will be bureaucratic improvements. I’m worried about how these new structures will work in a crisis in such a way as to avoid escalation to nuclear warfare. The world was served well by the large step function between conventional warfare and nuclear warfare during the Cold War era. The nature of future weapons systems will smooth that step function out. Giving STRATCOM a conventional combat role that will be active from the very beginning to the very end of a military engagement is a mistake. Since our weapons will already blur the line between conventional and nuclear warfare, it’s a great disservice to ourselves to remove the bureaucratic and operational barriers as well.

  • Larry J

    I’ve studied aviation, space, and military history for almost 50 years. One concern I have about establishing a separate military service for space (as opposed to a unified US Space Command) is that the new service would not be focused on supporting the other services but on their own business instead. When the Air Force was created in 1947, it became something of a self-licking ice cream cone. It focused on strategic bombardment at the expense of supporting the other services, such as providing close air support to ground combat troops. There are many who say that problem exists to this day. If the new Space Force focused primarily on fighting in space, would its support for PNT, communications, missile warning, etc. diminish?

    I served in the Air Force doing space operations. As long as it’s the Air Force, it will be commanded by pilots. Things not airplanes and people not pilots will always be considered second rate in the Air Force. A separate Space Force – properly structured to provide all aspects of space capabilities to the legacy services and to operate in space through all phases of war – should be able to do a better job than the Air Force.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Larry, all great points. But that’s the nature of having a set of separate armed forces out there competing for the same pie. The US will eventually need a space force, I just don’t think now is the right time. Space Command would be fine for a long time. I’m of the opinion that real strategic interests are not firmed up until the other side makes an offensive move that then defines the threat, then you have a strategic groundwork layed out for you. Otherwise you drift. The USAF had a gestation inside the US Army from before WWI to 1947. And the US Navy was growing an air force too, but never let it go. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Space Force. It could be a civilian branch of the military with nothing but officers, and very few people below 35. Space is very esoteric, to really understand it, you need to be fluent in physics, orbital mechanics, you have to be able to think in terms of vectors, there’s all the electronics and radio frequency consideration, and optics specialties. Likely the ability handle those issues will become the basis for establishing the difference between the elite and the plebes. Likely it won’t be made bottom heavy with a historical equivalent of cannon fodder. I envision a bunch of 40 year old pot bellied computer operators using Satellite Took Kit for everything. It’s going to be something new. And keep in mind Strategic Command is top heavy with civilians, it the Space Force takes on the form and function of Strategic Command it won’t be a military force anyone from the 20th cen would recognize.

  • Tom Billings

    A Space Force will be operated from Earth only so long as its assets can stay close enough to Earth to do their job without too much communications latency. Opposition will push them outward from Earth in order to gain warning time and maneuvering room and replenishment possibilities. From that point, (IMHO, past the distance to EML-1) they will have to move human operators closer to the operating assets. At that time Space Force will undergo a slow sea change in personnel and in emphasis, from fixed orbits and ground-based Space Force personnel to maneuvering vehicles near to and beyond the top of the Earth/Moon gravity well.

    As assets move farther from Earth, their apertures will have to grow larger to keep ground terminals small (and/or shrink them) in the units they service in the Army, AF, Navy, and Marines. That will require in-Space assembly, ala Archinaut and SpiderFab technologies. Eventually, those technologies will also be used to make the ships that keep Space Force personnel functional while near enough to those assets that they can be operated with high competence.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    For a long time the Space Force will be securing and ready to execute …
    * Surveillance
    *Anti Satellite offense/defense
    *Global Ballistic Strike (anti-shipping, SEAD, anti-air, airfield suppression,conventional nuclear counterforce)
    *Launch Suppression
    *Nuclear Weapons Delivery. (Assuming STRATCOM is eventually swallowed by the Space Force.)

    All are Earth centric. The trajectories of colonization will determine what the new geography of Near Earth Space and beyond will look like, and then, you’ll start to see some of your points come into play. But I think for the rest of our lives, it’s going to be pretty Earth centric. Someone 30 odd years or younger might start to see the new geography start to take shape. You and I most likely won’t. South Pole of the Moon is, I think, the most crude yet articulable geography we can identify now.

  • Tom Billings

    Certainly they are, and will be, Earth-centric. IMHO, the movement of our assets outward will come *not* from a change in Earth-centric orientation, but from threats by other powers to those assets. Those being other powers, like the PLA’s Strategic Support Force. The first and best defense of those assets is the same as with every threat, from Handaxe to H-Bomb, …be elsewhere!

    In this case, that means moving assets away from Earth even as we

    enlarge apertures to make sure they still function ever-better in “force multiplier roles”, as well as the others you list. Some will need to be done close to Earth, but those “information only” activities will be the first to be moved outward, to give them warning time of strikes against themselves.

    It is with those assets that I assume we will need to move personnel close enough to them that operation is not inhibited by communications latency. That will mean moving them into Space, themselves.