Back in June of 2017, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee moved to change control of space missions to a new military branch (rather than under US Air Force command). Things are now picking up steam with Trump ordering the Pentagon to create this new service branch for space military operations yesterday (6/18/18). This would be the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have a Space Force, separate but equal” Trump said.
Although President Trump is the armed forces commander in chief, he’ll require a great deal of congressional assistance to get this initiative off the ground. Right now, the Air Force, as well as the Navy and Army all conduct space operations. Given that these responsibilities would be transferred to this new service branch, legal changes would be required to transfer authority, appropriate funding and create new positions and policies.
There is still a lot that is unclear to members of congress about what exactly the Space Force would be responsible for, what type of manpower would be required, and what the associated costs would be. Currently, there is a congressionally mandated report in the works that should help answer some of these questions and will be completed in August. Once the report is released, congress can determine what they feel is best for national security.
So how likely is it that this sixth branch will be created? As mentioned previously, the House of Representatives has endorsed the idea of a Space Corps, and as a given, the creator of the initiative, Mike Rogers, is the House Armed Services Subcommittee Chairman. Previously, generals within the Pentagon weren’t thrilled with the idea, but with the President now pressing, it seems likely that the final decision will end up in the lap of the Senate. It’s unlikely there will be any further movement until the mandated report is released in August.
Currently, the Senate is finishing up with considerations for the 2019 defense authorization bill, so we may have to wait until the fiscal 2020 bill to see how things shake out for the Space Force.