President Trump directs Defense Department to 'immediately begin the process' of establishing 'space force' as sixth military branch

Key Points
  • President Trump is directing the Pentagon to create "a space force" as the sixth military branch.
  • The president first floated the idea in March as a part of his national security strategy.
  • The White House, the Air Force and Secretary of Defense James Mattis disapproved of creating a sixth branch of the military last year.
Trump to DOD: 'Space Force' will be sixth military branch

President Donald Trump declared Monday he will move to make a new branch of the military focused solely on space.

"I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," Trump said during a meeting of the National Space Council.

"Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security," Trump said.

"Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. "Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders."

Trump to establish space force as sixth military branch

He floated the idea for the force as a part of his national security strategy on March 13, saying "space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea." The president described then how he had originally coined the term as a joke, while discussing U.S. government spending and private investment in space.

"We have the Air Force, we'll have the space force," Trump said in March.

As it turns out, the space force sounds a lot like the space corps legislation the Trump administration opposed last year.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 18, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

In the National Defense Authorization Act, the House Armed Services Committee proposed last June the establishment of a space corps, a new branch of the military that would fall under the command of the Air Force. This branch's relationship to the Air Force would be similar to the Marine Corps' ties to the Navy. The space corps would have an area of responsibility that encompasses the vast expanse outside of the Earth's atmosphere.

At the time, the White House, the Air Force as well as Secretary of Defense James Mattis disapproved of creating a sixth branch of the military.

"I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting efforts," Mattis wrote in a letter to the House and Senate armed services committees.

While the legislation passed the House, the space corps bid did not make it into the final defense authorization bill in November.

The addition of a service branch would be the first in 71 years. The Air Force is the nation's youngest branch and was added shortly after World War II.

Clarification: This story was updated to clarify when the space corps was proposed. It was last June.