The U.S. Space Command will officially start operations by the end of the month, says Vice President Mike Pence and Pentagon officials. The announcement is expected to pave the way for a new branch of the military.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the newly established National Space Council, Vice President Pence said that the key step towards the establishment of the U.S. Space Force would be the U.S. Space Command.
“Next week we will formally stand up the new unified combatant command that will be known as the United States Space Command,” Pence said as he stood beneath the space shuttle Discovery at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
According to Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the ceremony will happen next week, August 29, where the Pentagon can officially re-establish the U.S. Space Command, which will serve as the launching pad of the U.S. Space Force.
“When the vice president presides over the ceremony, we will immediately assign 87 units under a single combatant commander,” Dunford said at a National Space Council meeting last August 20.
Effective immediately after the ceremonies, the U.S. Space Command will consist of 87 people under the direction of Gen. John Raymond, who is currently the commander of the Air Force Space Command.
Primarily, SPACECOM will oversee daily space systems operations and spearhead offensive and defensive space maneuvers as global militaries become more involved in the domain.
As of the moment, however, the Trump administration has yet to decide on a permanent headquarters location for the newest military branch, which will also work closely with the U.S. Strategic Command, Colorado-based AFSPC, and a potential new Space Force. Its two major components will be located at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and Schriever AFB, Colo.
While the Space Force and the Space Command will work together, they are not a unified government arm. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan explained via Twitter, “The Space Force will serve as a force provider for personnel, assets, and capabilities supporting space operations, while Space Command will serve as the operational command that will employ space capabilities and lead space operations.”
Once the two organizations are both up and running, “the differences between Space Force and U.S. Space Command will largely parallel those of the other five military services and four functional combatant commands,” he added.
On the other hand, President Donald Trump’s ambition towards establishing the sixth newest branch of the military, the Space Force has yet to be decided by Congress whether or not they would fund the project.
Trump’s Space Force has been a topic of conversation from his administration for over a year. He made it official in February with the signing of Space Policy Directive-4, which ordered the Pentagon to establish a Space Force to go along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.
Citing China and Russia as part of the reason behind establishing a U.S. Space Force, the Trump administration claims that preparing this early against threats may arise due to heightened interest over space exploration, is a smart move. Last month, France announced the creation of its own space force.
“The United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, defend our interests, and to defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense for the vast reaches of outer space,” Pence said.
Furthermore, Vice President Pence indicated that congressional funding is likely to happen soon. Currently, both chambers have approved plans for either a new organization — a Space Corps in the House and a Space Force in the Senate — but have not agreed on a final plan.
According to Pence, the Space Force military branch is expected to be up and running by 2020 — that is, if Congress agrees to establish and fund it.
“Space is a war-fighting domain,” Pence said. “The United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, to defend our interests and defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on the Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense.”