Trending: COVID-19 crisis sparks ‘inflection point’ for online grocery — and huge revenue for Amazon
Oval Office ceremony
Vice President Mike Pence makes comments at an Oval Office signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive 4, alongside President Donald Trump and officials including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva and Susan Gordon, principal deputy director of national intelligence. (White House Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump today signed a space policy directive that lays out further steps in the creation of the U.S. Space Force as a sixth military branch housed within the Department of the Air Force.

The plan wouldn’t involve splitting off Space Force from the Air Force immediately, although it leaves the door open to take that step at a later time. As described in the White House’s Space Policy Directive 4, the arrangement would be similar to the Marine Corps’ status as a military branch within the Department of the Navy.

Such a concept is more likely to meet with approval from the Democratic-led House, which along with the Senate would have to approve the Space Force’s creation.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who heads the House Armed Services Committee, told Politico earlier this month that “we can work with” the concept, which some have referred to as a “Space Corps” rather than a Space Force. In contrast, Smith previously voiced his opposition to the idea of creating a Space Force that was independent from the Air Force.

The Space Force would be the first new military branch created since the Air Force was born in 1947. (The others are the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard.)

During today’s Oval Office signing ceremony, Trump said “my administration has recognized space as a warfighting domain, and made the creation of the Space Force a national security priority.”

The directive calls on the Defense Department to deliver proposed legislation for setting up the Space Force. Details about costs are expected to come in the White House’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, due for release next month.

“I think we’ll have great support from Congress, because they do support something when we’re talking about such importance,” said Trump, who was surrounded by officials including Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Space Force would consolidate space-oriented assets and personnel from all the military branches, but it would not take on any of the space duties currently falling under the purview of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Reconnaissance Office or other non-military government agencies.

Its mission would be to protect America’s space assets from interference or attack.

During meetings of the White House National Space Council, defense and intelligence officials have voiced concern about anti-satellite capabilities being developed by China and Russia.

“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests,” Trump said. “Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that.”

Trump said the United States was developing its own arsenal of space weapons.

“We have a lot of things on the books,” he said. “We have a lot of new defensive weapons and offensive weapons designed specifically for this, and now we’re going to start taking advantage of. ,,, What we have on the books are things that you wouldn’t even believe.”

The Space Force is part of a step-by-step strategy to raise the profile of America’s space defenses. Trump has already authorized the revival of the U.S. Space Command, and the Pentagon is establishing a Space Development Agency to work on military technologies for the high frontier.

Today’s document was the fourth space policy directive signed by Trump. Earlier directives identified the moon and Mars as the primary targets for U.S. space exploration, called for regulatory reform in the space industry and set up a plan to enhance space situational awareness.

Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter


Job Listings on GeekWork

Executive AssistantRad Power Bikes
Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.