Washington, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Monday announced plans to develop a special “space force” branch of the U.S. forces in an effort to expand upon America’s military presence in outer space.
“We are going to have the Air Force and we’re going to have the Space Force, separate but equal. It is going to be something, so important,” the president said of his plan to develop a “sixth branch of the armed forces” while speaking at a National Space Council meeting. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.”
President Trump hinted at the idea once before while addressing a group of US Marines in March. “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain,” he told the group at that time.
Joined by Vice President Mike Pence, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and members of his space council, the president also vowed to return the United States to the moon and to reach Mars by the end of his term in office.
Trump’s announcement comes in defiance of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ stance on expanding U.S. military presence in space. Mattis, in a letter to ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, said he opposed the idea on the grounds that development of such a unit would only create more bureaucracy.
“I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting efforts,” Mattis said of the proposition last October.
The president did not go into details as to what military role the “space force” would carry out or who would lead it, but referred to it as a national security issue, saying he wanted America to lead the effort instead of “China and Russia and other countries leading us.”