Trump signs directive to create U.S. space force
New branch of the military would be the first created since the air force
U.S. President Donald Trump took a step Tuesday toward creating a U.S. space force, a new branch of the military dedicated to handling threats in space.
Trump signed Space Policy Directive 4, which puts in place the foundation for a legislative initiative that could establish a space force as a new military service comparable to the U.S. Marine Corps.
In an oval office signing ceremony, Trump said the space force is a national security priority.
The memo directs the Department of Defence "to marshal its space resources to deter and counter threats in space," through the establishment of the force that would be part of the air force, according to a draft seen by Reuters.
The space force would be an armed branch of the military and "include both combat and combat support functions to enable prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations," according to the memo.
U.S. air force chief Gen. David Goldfein, speaking Tuesday at the Brookings Institution think-tank, said the establishment of a space force was still a long way off, including "intricate details of how we move forward in establishing this service within the department of the air force."
Congressional approval needed
Goldfein also said "from a war-fighting perspective the most important step that we take going forward, and the one that we need to do the quickest, is to establish a U.S. Space Command as a combatant commander," a role that would actually command the personnel and materials presented to them by a space force.
The air force is the U.S. military branch that currently has responsibility for space.
Establishing the space force will require congressional approval.
Some lawmakers have expressed concerns about the need for the force and its potential cost.
Cost details will be included in the 2020 budget proposal Trump sends Congress next month.
On Tuesday, a Pentagon official speaking on condition of anonymity said initial start up costs for the space force were estimated to be about $72 million US.
A U.S. air force cost estimate from earlier last year said space force would be around $13 billion US in the first five years.
With files from The Associated Press