President Trump has directed the Department of Defense to create a sixth branch of the armed forces for the purpose of overseeing military operations and missions in outer space.
If authorized by Congress, the new military formation would be the first new service branch created since the separation from the Army of the Army Air Force into an independent entity in 1947.
In his announcement at the White House while hosting a meeting of the National Space Council, Trump said the new branch would be a separate equivalent of the U.S. Air Force.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. I’m 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 at the White House.
Mr. Trump has previously mentioned a return to and expanding further exploration of outer space, but the creation of this new branch is the first time the president has explicitly stated his vision of outer space as a national military asset.
Likely to face opposition in Congress, military uses of outer space have been the subject of controversy for decades.
Largely viewed as an extension of the Cold War, the space race between the former Soviet Union and the West culminated with the placement of man on the moon by the U.S. in 1969, but gave birth to questions over military forces above the atmosphere.
Addressing the issue in the late 1950s, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, was established in 1959.
The panel successfully concluded an agreement in 1967, the Outer Space Treaty, signed by 107 nations expressly forbidding the use or storage of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in outer space.
Under the same agreement, nations are prohibited from building military fortifications on the moon or other celestial bodies.
In his announcement Monday, Mr. Trump did not mention nuclear weapons or the construction of military installations in outer space.
[Reuters] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy NASA via Business Insider]