Last summer, Vice President Mike Pence paraded out a comprehensive plan that would begin building a military command committed specifically to space and establish a first-ever “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. The goal was to create the division as soon as 2020, and its formation would be the first new defensive arm since the Air Force arose right after World War II in 1947.
Yesterday, at the sixth meeting of the National Space Council at the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, V.P. Pence stood below the regal Space Shuttle Discovery to announce the debut department's birth and declare that the United States Space Command will officially launch at the end of the month.
"Next week we will formally stand up the new unified combatant command that will be known as the United States Space Command," Pence proudly proclaimed.
To capitalize on the endeavor of a proposed combined "Space Force" defending the United States’ assets in space, the Trump 2020 campaign has boasted that it will sell a line of logo gear labeled “Mars Awaits” in honor of the announcement.
After the ambitious proposal was first sidelined by Congress, White House officials aligned with national security leaders to march forward without Congress, with the initial step being the creation of a new U.S. Space Command led by a four-star general similar to the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Command. The new free-standing military department would contain its own chain of command and uniforms, and would pool the knowledge and resources of space experts from across the armed services spectrum.
Space Force and the Space Command are not the same entity, but will work hand in hand, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. As he revealed on 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."
Addressing the gathering of government officials and uniformed U.S. troops, Pence said that their “commander in chief is going to continue to work tirelessly toward this goal, and we expect you all to do the same. The only thing we can’t afford is inaction."
Pence also added that the Space Force military branch is still forging ahead and is expected to be up and running by 2020, pending, of course, Congressional approval for its multibillion-dollar funding price tag.
Also in attendance at Tuesday's National Space Council meeting, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford explained that an official ceremony to "stand up" the U.S. Space Command will occur on Aug. 29.
Following immediately in the wake of those formalities, the Space Command will launch, consisting of 87 people under the command of Gen. John Raymond, the current commander of Air Force Space Command.