- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2018

President Trump moving ahead with his plans for a separate military space command, a step toward his goal of creating a new U.S. Space Force, according to multiple reports.

The move coincides with Vice President Mike Pence’s visits this week to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral to watch a launch of the private SpaceX rocket and to the Pentagon to meet with senior military leaders to discuss the idea.

Mr. Pence also heads the White House Space Council that the president reconvened to boost plans for reviving crewed space missions at NASA.

Mr. Trump could sign the order for a Space Command as soon as Tuesday, White House officials said. The planned space command, which was first reported by CNN, does not need approval from Congress, as would be required to create a formal new military branch.

While analysts agree that space is becoming an increasing arena of competition with rivals such as Russia and China, Mr. Trump has faced considerable resistance in Congress and Capitol Hill in creating a separate new military service, the first for the United States since the Air Force was established as a separate service shortly after World War II.

Critics say a Space Command would be an unnecessary and expensive bureaucratic endeavor that would simply shift work already being done well by other services such as the Air Force.

The Space Force idea will also likely face new headwinds in 2019 with the Democratic takeover of the House. Key Democrats, including incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith of Washington state are on record as being deeply skeptical of the idea.

The military has only organized 10 previous combined combatant commands. The new Space Command would operate alongside Central Command and Special Operations Command, which oversee operations in the Middle East and the elite Special Forces, respectively.

Mr. Trump’s order would actually recreate a Space Command that existed from 1985 to 2002 but was disbanded by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to Military Times.

The first Space Command was disbanded to make room for the Northern Command focused on homeland defense. The functions of the defunct Space Command were taken over by Strategic Command, with the Air Force retaining its lead role in space though Air Force Space Command.

But Mr. Trump appears to have made some progress with U.S. military officials in overcoming their initial resistance to the idea. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told South Dakota’s KOTA-TV over the weekend that Mr. Trump next Defense Department budget will include money for the Space Force.

“The president of the United States has given us guidance to develop a proposal that will go forward with his budget in February, to establish a Space Force, and that will go forward to Congress in February,” Ms. Wilson said.

— This report is based in part on wire service reports.

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