Congress failed to provide funding for President Trump’s “Space Force” in its 2019 defense spending bill, but that hasn’t stopped the Pentagon from working on a plan for the new military agency.
The Pentagon plans to take several steps toward the creation of a space-focused branch of the military over the next few months, according to a document drafted internally and reviewed by Defense One. None of the planned moves require congressional approval. According to a draft of the document, which will reportedly be shared with lawmakers this week, the Defense Department plans to:
- create a new combatant command
- establish a new combined agency to buy military satellites
- organize a new warfighting group drawn from existing branches of the military.
The U.S. Space Command would be the Pentagon’s eleventh combatant command, all of which draw on multiple branches of the military to conduct ongoing missions, organized by geography (i.e, United States European Command) or function (i.e., United States Cyber Command).
The one thing the Pentagon can’t do on its own, however, is create a new, full-fledged branch of the military. It needs Congress to authorize that change, and so defense officials will spend the rest of this year developing a “legislative proposal for the authorities necessary to fully establish the Space Force.” Such a proposal could be included in the White House budget request for 2020, according to Defense One.
The Pentagon plan pushes the Space Force concept further than the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which instructed defense officials to create a new space command under the existing U.S. Strategic Command. The Pentagon also intends to create a Space Operations Force, composed of military personnel from all branches of the military and ready for deployment by next summer.
If the Pentagon plan comes to fruition, it could culminate in the creation of the first new branch of the military since the Air Force split off from the Army in 1947.