Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Pentagon on Thursday, laying out the case, and the timeline, President Trump’s administration is setting for the establishment of a space-specific branch of the U.S. military. President Trump first directed the establishment of a Space Force in March, though the concept of placing orbital defenses in the hands of a sixth military branch has been alive in Washington D.C. for some time prior, including its inclusion in last year’s congressional defense budget proposal. It was ultimately tabled when that budget was merged with the Senate’s proposal, however.
The Vice President first made it clear that the United States is not seeking to be the first nation to “militarize space” as some have contended. Space, as Pence pointed out, is already being militarized by national level opponents like Russia and China. The United States, then, is left with two options: compete in this developing battlespace or be left at a significant disadvantage.
“As their actions make clear, our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already, and the United States will not shrink from this challenge,” Pence said. “Under President Trump’s leadership, we will meet it head on — to defend our nation, and build a peaceful future here on Earth and in space.”
Of course, establishing a new branch is no small undertaking, which has served as the primary argument against President Trump’s Space Force from within the Pentagon. No defense officials have contested that there is no need for an orbital defense undertaking. Instead, many have argued that the effort is best left under the Air Force’s purview, as it is now. Criticism of a space branch levied by Defense Secretary James Mattis and others in the past have all been regarding the administrative and logistical expenses associated with the establishment of any new branch, not with its intended responsibilities. Mattis has still been reluctant to voice approval for this new branch, but recently told reporters that the Pentagon is in “complete agreement” with the White House regarding how to move forward.