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Trump Revives U.S. Space Command As Pence Unveils Plan In Florida


Vice President Mike Pence announced the revival of the U.S. Space Command, saying on Tuesday that it will oversee more than 18,000 military and civilian personnel who currently work "in space operations for our national security."

Vice President Mike Pence announced the revival of the U.S. Space Command, saying on Tuesday that it will oversee more than 18,000 military and civilian personnel who currently work "in space operations for our national security."

White House/ Screenshot by NPR

America’s military operations in space are now back under a single unified command, as the Trump administration revived the once-retired U.S. Space Command on Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence outlined the plan during his visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday.

“Today, there are more than 18,000 military and civilian personnel working in space operations for our national security, all across the Department of Defense,” Pence said.

The vice president added that under President Trump’s order, Space Command will “integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military; it will develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures that will enable our warfighters to defend our nation in this new era.”

“A new era of American national security in space begins today,” Pence said.

As Pence began his remarks in Florida, the White House made the move official by releasing a memo from President Trump to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, directing him to establish the Space Command. The same entity was first created in 1985, but it was merged into Strategic Command in 2002.

Pence had been in Florida to watch the launch of a next-generation GPS satellite, which had been slated to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday morning. That launch was scrubbed due to weather and a computer issue, but it didn’t stop Pence from delivering his remarks on Space Command.

The revived entity is different from the “space force” that both Trump and Pence have been discussing this year. That more ambitious plan calls for creating a sixth branch of the U.S. military — an act that would require approval from Congress.

Pence said the White House still wants to create the new U.S. Space Force and that it will be part of a space policy directive Trump will sign in the coming days. As for a timeline, he added that the administration is in talks with congressional leaders to “stand up the United States Space Force before the end of 2020.”

With Tuesday’s memo to the Defense Department, Space Command will return as a unified combatant command, a designation it now shares with 10 other military bodies, including Central Command (which oversees operations from West Asia to the Middle East), Cyber Command and Special Operations Command.

The return of Space Command was written into the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for the 2019 fiscal year. That legislation said the unified force would be used for to carry out “joint space warfighting operations,” and that “all active and reserve space warfighting operational forces” would be under its command.

Trump will appoint a four-star general or admiral to lead Space Command, along with a deputy commander. Both of those posts will require Senate approval.

From the president’s memo:

“I assign to United States Space Command: (1) all the general responsibilities of a Unified Combatant Command; (2) the space‑related responsibilities previously assigned to the Commander, United States Strategic Command; and (3) the responsibilities of Joint Force Provider and Joint Force Trainer for Space Operations Forces. The comprehensive list of authorities and responsibilities for United States Space Command will be included in the next update to the Unified Command Plan.”

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