Pence unveils Space Force to counter Russia, China

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced the first steps in the Trump administration’s bid to establish a standalone military Space Force by 2020, including creating an elite group of space troops in the same vein as current special operations forces.

Pence, in an appearance at the Pentagon, cited threats posed by adversaries like Russia and China, which are both developing anti-satellite weapons, lasers and hypersonic missiles that could threaten American reliance on space systems.

“As their actions make clear, our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already and the United States will not shrink from this challenge,” Pence said during a speech at the Pentagon. “America will always seek peace in space as on the earth, but history proves that peace only comes through strength and in the realm of outer space the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead.”

Pence said the administration is already working with leaders in Congress to include funding in next year’s budget to stand up the new Space Force, but some advocacy groups are already calling the plan “a waste of money.”

President Donald Trump first floated the idea of a Space Force in March, and ordered the Defense Department to establish a stand-alone space-focused branch of the armed forces in June at a National Space Council meeting.

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said at the meeting.

A report released Thursday by the Pentagon also lays out four steps to turn the president’s “vision into a reality,” Pence said.

One step is creating a joint “space operations force” to provide “space expertise in times of crisis.”

“Just like special operations forces, a space operations force will draw men and women from across the military and will grow into their own unique and cohesive community,” Pence said.

Other steps outlined in the report include establishing a civilian assistant secretary of defense for space that will eventually transition to a secretary of the Space Force, creating a new combat command for space and setting up a space development agency to focus on innovation and equipping space warfighters with the latest technology.

The announcement drew quick praise from supporters of a Space Force on Capitol Hill.

“We are glad that the Pentagon is finally taking these steps in enhancing our space strength,” Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)…

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