President Trump's Space Force? Lawmakers Set Reactions to Stun

President Trump's Space Force? Lawmakers Set Reactions to Stun

President Donald Trump announced June 18 his intent to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.

It would be the first new service since the establishment of the Air Force as a separate branch of the military in 1947.

In remarks at the National Space Council, Trump said, “In a few moments, I will sign a new directive to federal departments and agencies. They will work together with American industry to implement a state-of-the-art framework for space traffic management.”

The order, known as Space Policy Directive-3 calls for “updates to the U.S. Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices” and the creation of “new guidelines for satellite design and operation.” The directive seeks to create new rules for space traffic management.

But one thing the order doesn't do is call for the creation of a new branch of the armed forces.

Under Article I of the Constitution, it is the responsibility of Congress to raise and support a new service.

On Capitol Hill, the measure faces an uphill battle.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), currently the only astronaut in Congress and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said of the announcement, “The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don't want. Thankfully the president can't do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake.”

Likewise, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said, “We still don't know what a Space Force would do, who is going to be in it, or how much is it going to cost.”

One lawmaker who appears happy with the announcement is Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who says he is “thrilled to see President Trump's continued support of this important mission” and “There is an absolute need for a Space Force as a separate organization in the Department of Defense.”

Rogers, who serves as chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, will likely face off against Turner to lead the Armed Services Committee after Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) gives up his gavel. The two were deeply divided over the creation of the service when crafting last year's defense bill.

Rather than standing up the new service, last year's legislation required DoD to study the creation of the service. The report is due to Congress this summer.

There appears also to be confusion among DoD leaders on how to respond.

Last year, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wrote to lawmakers, “At a time when we are trying to integrate the Department's joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations vice an integrated one we're constructing under our current approach.”

Following the announcement, DoD spokesperson Dana White said, “Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”