DOD releases 4-part plan for Space Force

Susan Walsh  AP

Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon in 1969, announced on Twitter his support for the president's potential extension of the military. "The time has come to establish the United States Space Force".

It says the department will establish a Space Command to develop warfighting operations, a Space Development Agency to more quickly identify and develop new technologies, a Space Operations Force of leaders and fighters and a new support structure.

The Space Force would initially draw experts from existing space and military program in becoming the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Their remarks were timed to coincide with the release of a Pentagon report outlining the steps needed to create a Space Force, something it does not have the power to do on its own.

Mr Pence said the service is needed to ensure America's dominance in space amid heightened threats from China and Russian Federation. No new service branch has been established by Congress since the creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947 - over 70 years ago.

The report says the new command will "improve and evolve space warfighting", focusing on doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures. President Donald Trump publicly proposed such a branch in June.

The proposal taps into the American public's long fascination with space - but with a military focus.

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"For many years, nations from Russian Federation and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground", Pence said.

While Defense Secretary Jim Mattis rejected the idea of creating a Space Force within the Air Force in 2017, it seems he's changed course, but stopped short of promising a new branch. Satellites provide communications, navigation, intelligence and other services vital to the military and the national economy.

Given the stakes surrounding building a new military branch, the issue is likely to be a political football.

Finally, the Pentagon would also establish a US Space Command to be led by a four-star general or flag officer, he said.

Currently, the Air Force oversees most space capabilities and there is some push back from officials who worry the Space Force s mission would be duplicative and create turf wars. Last November, lawmakers shot down a proposal for a "Space Force", and Trump's new pet project could face continued legislative uncertainty.

Former astronaut and retired US Navy Captain Mark Kelly yesterday said a separate military branch devoted to space was redundant and wasteful, and that while Pence was right about the threats in outer space, the military was already handling them.

WEEDEN: I don't quite think the Space Force is the answer. This group would be the core of an eventual Space Force, to be created as a separate military service.

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