Remarks by Vice President Pence at Kennedy Space Center

Mike Pence

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Yeah, great words. Great words. Well, thank you, Secretary Wilson. Thank you for that introduction and thank you for your great leadership of the United States Air Force.

And I want to thank our host today, the Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, and the entire team. To General Selva, who joins us here today; to all of our distinguished guests; to General Shess; but especially to the airmen of the 45th Space Wing and your families, it is great to be here at the Kennedy Space Center, the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space.” Thank you all.

And I want to bring greetings this morning, first and foremost, to a great champion of American leadership in space and a great champion of America’s military personnel and your families. I want to bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

Well, nobody said space is easy, right? General Shess walked up to me a few minutes ago and I think he was worried I was going to be disappointed. But I told him, “This isn’t my first rodeo.” I attended my first launch here at the Kennedy Space Center about 15 years ago. And the most important thing — most important thing is that we get that rocket up safely and securely, and achieves its mission.

You know, the truth of the matter is that the progress that we’ve made and the leadership America has provided in space is a result of careful, methodical, cutting-edge work of the people that are gathered here and the decisions that were even made here today.

And so, let me just take a moment to congratulate in advance, not only our host here at the Kennedy Space Center, but NASA; the Air Force; our great industry partners, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin. I know this bird is going to fly and when it flies it’s going to make a difference for the security and prosperity of the American people. Job well done.

So thank you all for being here today. Despite this delay, I wanted to take the opportunity, nonetheless, to make a very important announcement about American leadership in space, and the opportunity to do that among the airmen here of the 45th is a great honor for me. And it’s a fitting place to do just that, and I’m grateful for your attendance and your participation here today.

Since the — even before this administration began, I can assure you that space was a priority of this President and of his Vice President. You know, I grew up — I was a little boy in the 1960s and I remember going down in our basement watching on our black-and-white television as America marveled the world with our leadership in space.

Nearly a half a century has passed since those days and America continues to lead in space. But I’m here to tell you today, from the first days of this administration, when President Trump restarted the National Space Council, to the investments that we’ve made in NASA, to the leadership on national security in space, a new era of American leadership in space has begun.

And so much of it will take place here on the Space Coast, where all three sectors of America’s space enterprise take flight: civil, commercial, and national security. And the National Space Council, I want to assure you, is working to bring together all elements of American leadership in space. And I’m grateful to have members of our User Advisory Committee and members of the National Space Council present with us today.

And I’m pleased to report to my fellow Americans that under President Trump’s leadership we’ve given renewed resources and strategic focus to trailblazers here at NASA. We’ve forged new partnerships with pioneering companies like those involved in the rocket that sits on the launchpad today. We’re investing in tools and capabilities that our armed forces need to protect our nation from the commanding heights of space. And that of course is what the 45th Space Wing has always done.

You know, the Space Coast is best known for the Apollo and space shuttles from the Kennedy Space Center. But you all know well that, for more than seven decades, the 45th Space Wing and your predecessors have made America the dominant power in the depths of space and we are proud of each and every one of the airmen gathered here today. Thank you for your service.

I know your motto is that “Control of the Battlefield Begins Here.” And I want to assure you that your Commander-in-Chief understands that, his number two understands that, and we’re going to continue to provide the 45th with the resources to accomplish your mission in the days ahead.

I want you to know you have no greater champion than President Donald Trump. I’m proud to say that, from the outset of this administration, this President has actually worked with leaders in both parties in the Congress, and he’s signed into law the largest increase in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan. We are rebuilding our military and restoring the arsenal of democracy.

And it has been a bipartisan effort. And the President and I are grateful of leaders in both parties that have supported his efforts in providing our warfighters with the resources, the training that you and your families need and deserve.

I do want to acknowledge one member of Congress who is with us today from the great state of Illinois, Congressman Randy Hultgren. Thanks for your great support of our military and your great support of this administration’s agenda. It’s an honor to have you here today.

But there’s perhaps no greater sign of this President’s commitment to all of you gathered here today, and your mission, than the President’s vision to stand up the United States Space Force. As the President said, and as you all well know, space is, in his words, “a warfighting domain.” And the truth is, for years, foreign nations have been developing electronic weapons to jam, blind, and disable satellites just like the one that waits on that launchpad today.

China has tested missiles designed to destroy satellites. China and Russia are working to station new weapons directly in space and, frankly, these new challenges demand new and innovative responses. And that’s precisely what we’ve been providing under President Trump’s leadership. Under his leadership, the United States is taking steps to ensure that American national security is as dominant in space as it is here on Earth.

And to that end, it is my privilege to announce that today, President Trump will direct the Department of Defense to establish a combatant command that will oversee all our military activities in space.

This Space Command will be the 11th Combatant Command in the U.S. military joining the Indo-Pacific Command, the European Command, but also it will serve alongside other — what are known as functional commands, like Strategic Command, and Special Operations Command. And it will be led by a four-star flag officer.

It will establish unified control over all our military space operations. The American people will be glad to know that today, there are more than 18,000 military and civilian personnel working in space operations for our national security all across the Department of Defense. And at President Trump’s direction, the U.S. Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military. It will develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our warfighters to defend our nation in this new era.

And I say with great pride, it’s an honor for me to announce the establishment of the U.S. Space Command here at the Kennedy Space Center, among all of these great airmen. A new era of American national security in space begins today.

But it won’t end there. In the days ahead, President Trump will also sign a new space policy directive that will lay out our plans and our timeline to create the new sixth branch of the armed forces, the U.S. Space Force.

We’re working as we speak with leaders in both parties in Congress to stand up the United States Space Force before the end of 2020.

You know, the Air Force has been a magnificent steward of our military space capabilities, and they prove that every single day. Each and every one of you do. And I want to promise you that we’re going to build on that foundation. We’re going to build on that foundation together with space professionals from every branch.

And while we’re taking these actions to ensure our nation’s security and our future, we’ll be following the very best traditions of the past. We’ll be building on a foundation of American innovation, of the courage of our armed forces, and we’ll also be building on the timeless foundation of faith of the American people — faith in the capacity of our people to accomplish anything in the defense of and the advance of freedom. And we’ll also do it with that other kind of faith as well.

You know, it’s remarkable to think 50 years ago this month, two Air Force pilots and a naval aviator blasted off from this very cape, with a rendezvous with history.

On that fateful mission, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, went further than any human being had ever gone before. They rounded our lunar surface, and on Christmas Eve 1968 — you might remember the story — those of you with hair the same color as mine. It was an amazing moment.

The men of Apollo 8 gazed across the gray surface of the moon and they watched that glorious blue and green orb rise on the horizon of the moon. The first time anyone in the human family had ever seen an Earthrise before. And they were inspired.

And as they saw that Earthrise, the astronauts of Apollo 8 spoke back to the world timeless words that are cherished in the faith tradition of tens of millions of Americans and people around the world. And I looked at that transcript when I was visiting NASA just a few short days ago.

And as this special season of the year approaches for the American people, it’s a joy for me to recall those words. They said from Apollo 11[8], quote, “Now approaching the lunar sunrise… for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.” That “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face…” of the Earth. “And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”

As each one of you in this space enterprise in America — military and civilian — do your work, as you continue to renew American leadership in space, I urge you to do so on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, with your very best efforts, with renewed energy, with ingenuity, with professionalism, and with innovation.

But I also urge you to do your work with faith, if you’re of a mind. That as your keep our country safe, know that you also carry the faith and aspirations of the American people, tens of millions of which every day look to the heavens and see His hand and long to understand it better.

In this season of giving, this team has worked hard to give the American people a great gift. And I have every confidence that it will be aloft very soon. Because of all of your efforts, very soon, America will be more secure, and the American people will be more inspired.

So thank you for your service. Thank you to all the members of our military that worked to make this possible — all the members of the 45th Space Wing. And thanks to the leadership of the Air Force gathered here today. Thanks to our great industry partners who have worked with us to bring us to this point.

And on behalf of President Trump, let me just say thank you all for this great collaboration for the American people. And I say in advance, of what I know will be a great and successful launch, congratulations and Merry Christmas. Thank you all.