Trump floats idea of creating a ‘space force’

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE on Tuesday said his new national security strategy recognizes space as a war-fighting domain and may pave the way for the creation of a “space force.”

“We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force,” Trump said during a speech to military personnel in San Diego, Calif., after surveying border wall prototypes during his trip.

“You know, I was saying it the other day – because 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.’ And I was not really serious, and then I said, ‘What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen,'” he said.

“From the very beginning, many of our astronauts have been soldiers and sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines, and our service members will be vital to ensuring America continues to lead the way in to the stars.”

Trump added that the U.S. is “way, way behind” on advances in space, “but we’re catching up fast.”

Congressional proponents of a dedicated space military branch have argued it is necessary because the Air Force has in recent years focused on more traditional service needs such as updating and buying aircraft.

A push to establish a space corps within the Air Force – led by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) – failed in the House Armed Services Committee last year.

Supporters of the idea worried that the United States is lagging behind Russia and China, who have already made moves to spin off their space operations into separate military branches and are developing electronic warfare and anti-satellite weapons.

The White House, however, fiercely opposed the space corps plan last year. The administration, along with the Pentagon and Senate, acknowledged the United States must do better in space, but that creating a new military branch would be premature and may add more bureaucracy that could hinder the military’s space operations.

Though the move for an established space corps failed, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) did include several reforms to the military’s space operations. Among them is a provision that requires the deputy secretary of Defense to study the possibility of creating a space corps in the future.

The language also eliminates several layers of bureaucracy – including the principal adviser for space, the Defense Space Council and the deputy chief of staff for space operations – and gives Air Force Space Command sole authority for organizing, training and equipping all space forces within the Air Force.

In a joint statement in November, Rogers and Cooper – the top lawmakers on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee – said they hoped the NDAA compromise would eventually help achieve their goal, and that they will not allow a “space Pearl Harbor.”

Pentagon officials are also looking at how “best to posture joint space forces to support joint campaigns” and are considering creating a new command for space warfare, according to a Defense Department memo sent to Congress last week that was first reported by Defense One.

The March 1 memo proposes a combatant command for space and restructuring the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

Updated: 6:54 p.m.