Pence unveils plans for "Space Force"

Kat Wade  Getty Images North America

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to outline plans for President Trump's proposed new "space force" during remarks at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Pence said the force "will not be built from scratch", but will tap existing space program personnel.

The Space Force would be responsible for a range of crucial space-based USA military capabilities, which include everything from satellites enabling the Global Positioning System (GPS) to sensors that help track missile launches.

The biggest obstacle to the creation of a Space Force is Congress, as the establishment of a new branch of the United States military requires congressional approval.

The ambitious plan is capped with a White House promise to establish the U.S. Department of the Space Force by 2020, Pence said. But a USA force won't be with anybody unless Congress approves funding, and they already tabled the idea. Instead, the Defense Department wants to establish two new entities that wouldn't be military branches, the U.S. Space Command and Space Development Agency.

Shortly after Pence s speech, Trump tweeted: "Space Force all the way!"

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The United States is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bars the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space and only allows for the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes. Writing to Sen. John McCain previous year, Mattis said that he opposed the creation of "additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions".

Some Republican lawmakers expressed support for the project, but many Democrats derided the idea as a money pit that would jeopardize other priorities.

"In his inaugural address to the nation, President Trump declared that the United States stands 'at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, '" Pence said.

Create a new position - assistant secretary of defense for space - that will help oversee the Space Force transition. Brian Weeden is a former Air Force officer who now works on space policy for the Secure World Foundation.

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.

"The U.S. military is big in space, but it's all unmanned satellites", Brumfiel reports. When asked if he supports establishing a new combatant command for space, he told reporters, "Absolutely". Space Command's main role would be to prepare for conflict in space and to lead US space forces should such a war begin.

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