Space Force: To Stand Alone or
Not to Stand Alone
November 29, 2018
administration officials are debating whether to create a
stand-alone Space Force to handle space defense or a Space Force
that falls within the Air Force, officials tell VOA.
Either option requires congressional approval, which could prove
difficult with a Democratic-led House and a Republican-led Senate.
An Oct. 26 memo obtained by VOA directs that the Department of
Defense create the "optimal organizational construct to meet (the
The memo, signed by Executive Secretary of the National Space
Council Scott Pace and National Security Council official Earl
Matthews, instructs the Pentagon to focus on whether the Space Force
is most efficient as a new independent department or as "a separate
service within the Department of the Air Force, along the lines of
the U.S. Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy or the U.S.
Coast Guard within the Department of Homeland Security."
Support in the House
This latter organizational structure has bipartisan support in the
House, but the former has often been seen by Democrats as an
Vice President Mike Pence and Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick
Shanahan met Thursday to discuss how to build the first new military
branch since 1947, as President Donald Trump has directed.
A National Space Council official told VOA Thursday the October memo
does not represent a shift in White House guidance.
"The direction to create the U.S. Space Force remains exactly the
same, and the Space Council is continuing to work with the
departments and agencies responsible for implementing the
president's direction to develop the sixth branch of the Armed
Forces," the official said.
Space Command next?
Officials say the president also intends to establish a U.S. Space
Command, a move already directed by Congress.
The U.S. military is organized into 10 combatant commands based on
either geography, such as Indo-Pacific Command and European Command,
or unified functions, such a Transportation Command and Cyber
This new, 11th combatant command would oversee space defense much
like U.S. Cyber Command oversees cyber defense. Space Command is
expected to start in mid-2019 with initial operation capability.
familiar with Space Force deliberations have raised concerns to VOA
that a new military branch could duplicate the work of the new
combatant command. They say a separate military service may not be
needed once the combatant command is fully operational.
"You don't see a Cyber Force in addition to Cyber Command," one
official said on condition of anonymity.
Cost estimates for the Space Command have been modeled after the
creation of U.S. Strategic Command, which was set up in the early
1990s. The biggest expense will be the creation of a new
headquarters for the combatant command in order to make room for
providing new capabilities, according to one official.