During a meeting with the National Space Council that took place on Monday, Donald Trump directed the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to establish a 'Space Force' as the sixth branch of the military.
"We must have American dominance in space. Very importantly, I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," he said. "(...) We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force: separate but equal, it is going to be something so important."
Yes, Trump said "separate but equal," a term which can be traced to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court decision that was used to uphold racial segregation in public facilities.
According to the AP, Trump also said the U.S. will "be the leader by far" in space, and framed the move as a national security issue by stating that he doesn't want "China and Russia and other countries leading us." He also vowed to soon get the States back to the moon in addition to a
plan vague goal of reaching Mars.
The announcement reportedly came as a surprise to those in attendance, as it occurred during a meeting where the Space Council was going to unveil a first of its kind policy on space traffic management. "The whole point of today’s meeting was not about this at all, it was about the space traffic management policy decision," said Brian Weeden, the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation (which focuses upon space policy).
This is actually not the first time the president has floated the whole 'Space Force' idea, as he previously did so in March. In addition to calling for the creation of the new military branch, Trump also signed Space Policy Directive -- 3, which aims to help with managing satellite traffic and reducing space debris.
CNN reports that (at least officially) the DoD is backing the idea, with one official saying "Space is a warfighting domain, so it is vital that our military maintains its dominance and competitive advantage in that domain. The Joint Staff will work closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, other (Defense Department) stakeholders and the Congress to implement the President's guidance."
Another added, "The President's direction to begin planning is clear. We are implementing his direction."
Still, Senators (such as Florida's Bill Nelson) took to Twitter to argue against the move, while also stating Congress needs to approve it to make it official anyway: