“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal. It is going to be something,” President Donald Trump said during a June 18 meeting of the National Space Council. “I’m hereby directing the department of Defense and the Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement.” Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

WASHINGTON — With defense committees on Capitol Hill consumed by Ukraine and Syria crises while spending bills slow to a crawl and the House moves forward with an impeachment inquiry, it is uncertain if or when Congress will pass the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Much less clear is whether the NDAA will give DoD the green light to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.

Establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces is a priority of President Trump and Vice President Pence and the White House wants to be prepared to roll out the new service as soon as Congress authorizes it, according to sources familiar with discussions at an Oct. 15 meeting at the White House.

White House officials have asked DoD to prepare a detailed public communications plan for the new branch, these sources said. DoD and Air Force officials have said they would be ready to stand up a Space Force within 90 days of its enactment. But the president would not want to wait that long for the public reveal of the Space Force.

Administration officials expressed concern that DoD does not yet have Space Force visuals, such as a flag and seal, that the president would expect to show at a rollout event. The White House also would like to move quickly to nominate a chief of staff of the Space Force shortly after the service is enacted, these sources said.

The Air Force said in a statement that a “provisional headquarters for the U.S. Space Force will stand up within 90 days of NDAA approval.”

A DoD Space Force Planning Task Force has been in place since March 2019. The task force, led by Air Force Maj. Gen. Clinton Crosier, has drawn up detailed plans for how the Space Force headquarters would be organized and staffed. Air Force leaders have been emphatic that the Space Force should have autonomy even though it would be part of the Department of the Air Force.

People familiar with the Space Force planning said there is still no approved Space Force seal or flag, but the Air Force is working on a “public affairs campaign” that would start immediately after the Space Force is enacted into law.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...