Friday, February 22, 2019

Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 4 in Step to Create Space Force

President Donald Trump displays the “Space Policy Directive 4” after signing the directive to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 19, 2019. Jim Young | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a directive centralizing all military space functions under a new Space Force, which will be overseen by the Department of the Air Force.

While it is technically up to Congress to approve the creation of the Space Force, a sixth military branch that would organize, train and equip a corps of military space personnel, Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 4 marks the first time the administration has made clear how the new service would fit into the existing military structure.

Known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), the directive orders the Pentagon draft legislation for Congress that would create the Space Force as a part of the U.S. Air Force. This would establish the first military branch in 72 years. The Air Force is the nation’s youngest branch and was added shortly after World War II.

“Today, I’m thrilled to sign a new order taking the next step to create the United States Space Force," Trump said during the signing ceremony. "So important, when you look at defense, when you look at all of the other aspects of where the world will be someday. I mean, this is the beginning. This is a very important process.”

According to SPD-4, the Space Force will initially reside under the Department of the Air Force and it will be led by a civilian undersecretary of the Air Force for space as well as a four-star general serving as the Space Force chief of staff — a measure that is less ambitious than the stand-alone service originally envisioned by the president.

The administration wrote SPD-4 as a high-level policy memo, very light on details, leaving most of the nitty gritty planning to DoD’s legislative proposal and many specifics to be hashed out over the coming months by DoD and the congressional defense committees.

A senior administration official said Trump believes there is bipartisan support in Congress to do this. “Our priorities are clear,” the official said on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. “I think there’s a lot of commonality on both sides of the aisle. And I am hoping that this is not a very heavy lift for everyone. It is an issue that has been around for a long while.”

In a statement following the signing of SPD-4, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, noted that his committee “led the way in passing a similar measure several years ago, so this proposal has a record of attracting bipartisan support in Congress.”

But many fine points about how the Space Force will be staffed and how it will operate as the sixth branch of the armed forces have yet to be decided and could take years to sort through.

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