Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said he supports creation of a U.S. Space Force as a sixth military service despite earlier comments that seemed to show the opposite, according to The Associated Press.
“I was not against setting up a Space Force,” he told reporters Sunday while flying to Brazil. “What I was against was rushing to do that before we could define the problem [that needs solving].”
Vice President Mike Pence said last week that the Trump administration wanted the new service functioning by 2020.
Patrick M. Shanahan, a deputy defense secretary, and Gen. Paul J. Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said space is a combat domain. China and Russia have the ability to hack, destroy or jam satellites. U.S. Space Force would focus on protection of those assets necessary for everything from squads operating in Afghanistan to command and control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, according to a Pentagon release.
The plan calls for the Pentagon to stand up a unified combatant command under the direction of a four-star officer.
Establishing the U.S. Space Force will require congressional action. A separate service will require a separate department under the Defense Department like the Department of the Air Force. It will require a secretary, personnel systems, a promotion system, legal help, recruiting and more.
Officials said that about 80 percent of space-qualified personnel reside in the Air Force, but all services have personnel with space expertise. Selva said there are roughly 18,000 people in the services with a space-qualifier badge. There are also a number of civilian personnel in the department with this expertise and thousands of contractors who could be drawn into the new command.
Another important aspect of the proposal should help speed development and acquisition of space assets. There are currently around 140 military satellites. What assets replace those satellites? Who maneuvers those satellites in time of tension? How does the department build in defenses or harden its space assets to prevent tampering or jamming? These are all questions that would be on the command’s plate, according to the release.