President Trump’s proposed Space Force is another step closer to taking off, as top brass announced this week that a space combatant command will launch later this month, a key step toward materializing the space-focused branch.
Space Command (SPACECOM), the Defense Department’s first new combatant command since 2009, will launch Aug. 29, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Tuesday at a National Space Council meeting in Chantilly, Va., which was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence.
Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond has been tapped to command SPACECOM and its 87 units, which Dunford said will cover “missile warning, satellite operations, space control and space support," according to Defense News.
"This initiative is going to have a positive impact on our ability to grow the people and capabilities that we’re going to need in the future. I’m confident the focus that a single service will bring to bear is going to have a profound difference,” Dunford said of the U.S. Space Force.
"The direction is clear. We understand it. And we’re moving out,” he added.
President Trump first floated the idea of a "Space Force" in March 2018, when he told service members at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego that he was considering the addition of a "space force."
That May, Trump formally announced that his administration was mulling the creation of a Space Force military branch. This past February, he formally directed the Pentagon to create the U.S. Space Force be part of the Air Force, similar to how the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy.
“It’s the future, it’s where we’re going,” Trump said when signing the directive, known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4). “I suspect whether we like it or not, that’s where we’re going — in space. That’s the next step, and we have to be prepared.”
“Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that," the president noted. "That’s why my administration has recognized space as a war-fighting domain and made the creation of the Space Force a national security priority."
A first U.S. Space Command was established in 1985 but then merged with U.S. Strategic Command in 2002 following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. There is also an Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan tweeted this past December about the difference between the Space Command and the Space Force, saying, "The Space Force will serve as a force provider for personnel, assets and capabilities supporting space operations while Space Command will serve as the operational command that will employ space capabilities and lead space operations."
It has been estimated that the Space Force could cost $2 billion over a five-year period, Defense News reported in March.
The Space Force could be operational as early as 2020 if Congress approves the necessary funding, Vice President Pence has said.
The U.S. military has had five branches since the Air Force was formed as an independent branch in 1947. The Defense Department currently has 10 combatant commands that serve various missions around the globe. They are Africa Command, Central Command, Cyber Command, European Command, Indo-Pacific Command, Northern Command, Southern Command, Special Operations Command, Strategic Command and Transportation Command.