Pence: Trump determined to get Space Force authorized by Congress next year
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Vice President Mike Pence insisted Tuesday that President Trump will make it a priority to ensure a new military branch for space is authorized by Congress next year. The administration believes there is enough bipartisan support for a Space Force that it will be authorized regardless of who wins the majority in November, Pence said at a Washington Post “Transformers Space” event.
Speaking with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, Pence said the president “wants language in the NDAA that authorizes a sixth branch of the military.”
Pence was dismissive of concerns raised by Costa that the Space Force may not get enough support in Congress to get into law because of the cost and how politicized the issue has become. The president is motivated, Pence said. The administration will be “launching a number of steps” toward its goal of standing up a new service. The first step will be a recommendation from the National Space Council on Tuesday to get a U.S. Space Command formed as a unified military command, as well as a Space Development Agency to accelerate innovation.
“Let’s begin by bringing everyone under a unified command,” Pence said.
He said there are about 60,000 people in the Defense Department and the intelligence community who work in national security space. “We haven’t brought them together in one place,” said Pence.
Regarding the cost of the Space Force, Pence would not endorse Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s assessment that a new service could cost up to $13 billion over five years. “I have great, great respect for Secretary Wilson,” he said. The cost could be lowered by using existing resources. “An awful lot of what we’ll do is consolidating.”
But Pence also suggested that even if the Space Force came with a huge price tag, that it would be worth paying. “What price freedom? What is the price you place on the security of the United States?”
POLITICIZATION OF SPACE FORCE Pence pushed back on criticism that this issue has become campaign fodder, and he talked about how the Space Force fits into Trump’s “Make America Great Again” narrative. “I actually think there’s broad bipartisan support,” said Pence. “This is an issue that Republicans and Democrats have spoken about for some time. But Trump seized on it.” On the campaign trail, “there’s a lot of enthusiasms for Space Force. I think there’s many Americans who remember those glory days of the 1960s,” he said. “Millions of Americans, whatever their politics, would agree that somewhere along the way we lost our vision and passion. The Space Force taps into that American aspiration.”
SPACE FORCE MARKETING BLITZ The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Trump’s political arm has “launched a merchandising craze of Space Force-themed T-shirts, coffee mugs, spiral notebooks and throw pillows.” In West Virginia, the paper reported, “sales of Space Force apparel is helping finance the Wood County Republican Party, which can’t keep enough of its homemade Space Force T-shirts in stock.” The shirts are on sale for $15 at the party headquarters and online.
WHAT’S NEXT? Trump ordered the Pentagon to establish a Space Force in June but the president has not yet issued an official policy directive that lays out the steps ahead. The policy would be Space Policy Directive-4 — the fourth since President Trump activated the National Space Council in June 2017 by executive order.
According to a draft of the policy directive obtained by SpaceNews, the Defense Department would have to submit a legislative proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget by Dec. 1 recommending that a Space Force be formed as a separate branch of the armed forces. DoD also would submit a budget request for the new service to be included in the president’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2020. The draft says it is “imperative that the United States adapt its organization, policies, doctrine and capabilities to protect our interests” in space. It directs DoD to “take actions under existing authority to marshal its space resources into a Space Force” and craft a legislative proposal to establish a Department of the Space Force.