After months of talk, Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to go ahead and create a "Space Force". The surprise announcement was made on Monday at a meeting with the National Space Council, which was actually supposed to focus on the much less intriguing but still important issue of space traffic management.
“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal," Trump told attendees. (Whether he knew he was invoking segregationist and Jim Crow rhetoric by uttering the phrase "separate but equal" is unclear.)
“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," he continued.
Apparently, reporters were not made aware of the direction in the pre-meeting briefing. Nor was it included in fact sheets handed to the media. But, sources say Pentagon officials had been warned the statement was coming and would be announced at the meeting, reports Space News.
Whether or not this was a pre-planned announcement or an off-the-cuff remark – a hallmark of this particular president – the concept of a military division specialized in all things space has been brewing for a while now. Last summer, the House floated the idea of creating a Space Corps, a plan that was later scrapped.
More recently, Trump has talked about building a "Space Force". He first disclosed plans to do so at a conference in California on March 13, 2018.
Speaking at Monday's meeting, Trump said, "It is not enough to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space."
You would be forgiven for thinking this sounds rather ominous, not to mention reminiscent of the Cold War and space race between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Especially so as not that long ago, David L Goldfein, a General in the US Air Force and current Air Force Chief of Staff, warned that wars in space could be a “matter of years” away.
However, just because Trump has directed the Pentagon to do something, it doesn't mean it will actually happen. No dates have been put forward detailing when we can expect this Space Force and first it will have have to be approved by Congress. Securing their approval could be more than a little bit tricky – many, both in and out of government, have already expressed criticism regarding Trump's latest policy. Though if it does go ahead, it doesn't look like it will be short on recruits.