The Defense Department has proposed legislation that would create the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.
If approved by Congress, the U.S. Space Force would be the first military service established since the Air Force stood up in 1947.
The new force recognizes how vital space is to U.S. economic prosperity and national security, Defense Department officials said. The legislative proposal follows a directive President Donald J. Trump signed Feb. 19.
DOD proposes that the U.S. Space Force initially be established as a new military service within the Department of the Air Force. In this model, the new Space Force would have a similar relationship to the Department of the Air Force that the Marine Corps has with the Department of the Navy, officials explained.
The uniformed four-star Space Force chief of staff would be granted full membership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Additionally, the proposal calls for a new undersecretary of the Air Force for space, who would provide dedicated civilian supervision of the Space Force.
If Congress passes the proposal, the Space Force would be authorized to organize, train and equip space forces “to provide for freedom of operation in, from and to the space domain; to provide independent military options for joint and national leadership; and to enable the lethality and effectiveness of the joint force,” the proposal says.
Threats From Space
China and Russia recognize that U.S. space capabilities underpin the ability of the United States to project power around the globe. “China and Russia are actively developing a range of counter-space capabilities to deny the United States the advantages of space in a crisis or conflict,” an official said on background. “China and Russia are also rapidly developing space capabilities to enhance the lethality of their own military operations. There is an increased likelihood that the U.S. military will need to defeat the space capabilities of adversary forces in order to prevail in a potential conflict, protect lives and secure U.S. interests.”
China has demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities, and a recent report from the Defense Intelligence Agency says Russia is known to be developing them as well, officials said. China and Russia also are looking at all other aspects — from jamming to hacking to kinetics — to destroy or degrade U.S. space capabilities, they added.
The Defense Department’s legislative proposal outlines a five-year phased stand-up of the Space Force beginning Oct. 1 — the start of fiscal year 2020 — if Congress passes the legislation. This will allow force leaders to prepare for mission transfer beginning in fiscal year 2021. The plan calls for the Space Force to continue to build out its force structure through fiscal year 2024.
Officials estimate that about 15,000 military and civilian personnel could transfer to the Space Force. Initially, most of the personnel in the new service will come from the Air Force, but soldiers, sailors and Marines also will be considered for transfer to the new force. “The secretary of defense, in consultation with each service secretary and service chief, will determine which existing space forces will transfer into the USSF after its creation,” a Pentagon official said.
DOD has established a full-time planning task force to conduct detailed planning for the new military service. The department’s fiscal year 2020 defense budget request asks for $72.4 million to begin the process of establishing the headquarters of the new service. The headquarters would be in the Pentagon.
Additional resources will be dedicated to building out the USSF headquarters and establishing and maintaining new support elements such as education, training, doctrine and personnel management centers, officials said. Once fully established, they added, the additive costs will be about $500 million annually, which they noted is about 0.07 percent of the annual DOD budget.