‘The time has come:’ Pence outlines plan for military Space Force
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‘The time has come:’ Pence outlines plan for military Space Force

US vice president says new, separate branch of army to be established by 2020; Trump tweets: 'Space Force all the way!'

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the creation of a new Space Force branch of the military at the Pentagon on August 9, 2018., in Arlington, Virginia. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the creation of a new Space Force branch of the military at the Pentagon on August 9, 2018., in Arlington, Virginia. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Faced with growing competition and threats from Russia and China, the White House on Thursday said it will create the US Space Force as a sixth, separate military service by 2020.

Vice President Mike Pence told a Pentagon audience that the plan fulfills President Donald Trump’s vow to ensure America’s dominance in space — a domain that was once peaceful and uncontested that has now become crowded and adversarial.

“Now the time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation,” said Pence. “The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.”

Trump marked Pence’s announcement with a tweet: “Space Force all the way!”

US Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) introduces Vice President Mike Pence at the Pentagon on August 9, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump has called for a “separate but equal” space force, a complicated and expensive move that requires congressional approval. On Thursday, Pence said that the administration will work with Congress on the plan, and will outline a budget next year.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has endorsed steps to reorganize the military’s space warfighting forces and create a new command, but has previously opposed launching a pricey, new service. A new branch of the military would require layers of bureaucracy, military and civilian leaders, uniforms, equipment, and an expansive support structure.

The Pentagon proposal delivered to Congress Thursday lays out plans to consolidate the Pentagon’s warfighting space forces and make organizational changes to boost the acquisition and development of leading edge technologies.

US President Donald Trump shows off a ‘Space Policy Directive’ after signing it during a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House on June 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Pentagon’s role in space has been under scrutiny because of a recognition that the United States is increasingly reliant on satellites that are difficult to protect in space. Satellites provide communications, navigation, intelligence, and other services vital to the military and the economy.

The US intelligence agencies reported earlier this year that Russia and China are pursuing “nondestructive and destructive” anti-satellite weapons for use during a future war. And there are growing worries about cyberattacks that could target satellite technology, potentially leaving troops in combat without electronic communications or navigation abilities.

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