US President Donald Trump has signed a policy directive officially establishing a Space Force, a sixth branch of the already-sprawling US military that will launch as a subsidiary of the Air Force – as long as funding is approved.
Trump has signed the futuristic-sounding Space Policy Directive-4, which orders the Pentagon to draft legislation establishing the Space Force within the Air Force. The administration still has to submit a legislative proposal to Congress, which would approve the funds and authority required to officially establish the new military branch.
“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests,” Trump said at a White House press conference. “Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that.”
Last week, the Pentagon released a timely intelligence report portraying Moscow and Beijing, alongside usual suspects Iran and North Korea, as trying to bring warfare into space, and justifying the need for “defensive” countermeasures.
Trump had initially proposed a Space Force “separate but equal” from the Air Force when he floated the plan last March. Now, the Air Force, which currently employs 80 to 90 percent of all space-focused military personnel anyway, will house and oversee the new branch through an appointed undersecretary for Space.
The Space Force is the first new branch of the military to launch in 72 years. Trump admitted last year that he initially coined the term as a joke in a discussion of government spending and private investment in space, but with China landingthe first probe on the far side of the moon and othercountries eyeing their own chunk of extra-terrestrial space, he decided to take the matter seriously.