President Donald Trump has celebrated the official launch of the US' new Space Force — the first new military service in more than 70 years.
It is part of the newly signed 2020 National Defense Authorization Act which authorises $1.4 trillion (€1.26 trillion) of government spending, including the Pentagon’s budget and more financing for Trump’s US-Mexico border fence.
“Space is the world's new war-fighting domain,” Trump said Friday during a signing ceremony at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington.
“Among grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we're leading, but we're not leading by enough, and very shortly we'll be leading by a lot.”
Space Force has been a reliable applause line at Trump's political rallies, but for the military, it's seen more soberly as an affirmation of the need to more effectively organise for the defence of US interests in space, especially satellites used for navigation and communication.
Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops in space.
Mark Esper, US Defense Secretary, told reporters Friday: “Our reliance on space-based capabilities has grown dramatically, and today outer space has evolved into a warfighting domain of its own.”
Maintaining dominance in space, he said, will now be Space Force's mission.
Space has become increasingly important to the U.S. economy and to everyday life.
The Global Positioning System, for example, provides navigation services to the military as well as civilians.
Its constellation of about two-dozen orbiting satellites is operated by the 50th Space Wing from an operations centre at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.
In a report last February, the Pentagon asserted that China and Russia have embarked on major efforts to develop technologies that could allow them to disrupt or destroy American and allied satellites in a crisis or conflict.
Instead of being its own military department, like the Navy, Army and Air Force, the Space Force will be administered by the Secretary of the Air Force. The law requires that the four-star general who will lead Space Force, with the title of Chief of Space Operations, will be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but not in Space Force's first year. Trump said its leader will be Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond, the commander of US Space Command.
Space Force is the first new military service since the Air Force was spun off from the Army in 1947. Space Force will be the provider of forces to US Space Command, a separate organisation established earlier this year as the overseer of the military's space operations.
The division of responsibilities and assets between Space Force and Space Command has not been fully worked out.