The U.S. Space Command is coming back, Vice President Mike Pence told a Pentagon crowd Thursday. And the initial move toward building a separate Space Force likely will land in Colorado Springs.
Pence visited the Pentagon to roll out the Trump administration’s plan to create a separate armed service for space. The mission will require help from Congress, which has been reluctant to sign off on a new space service. But the steps Pence outlined can be done within the military, including setting up a new four-star headquarters for space combat.
“The time has come to establish the United States Space Force,” Pence said.
President Donald Trump began his push for a new space service in March but enhanced his efforts in June when he ordered Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to clear the way for a new Space Force. The first steps are more modest than Trump’s command.
The Pentagon will re-establish the U.S. Space Command, which operated in Colorado Springs through 2003 but was shut down to make way for the U.S. Northern Command, which focused on protecting the U.S. from 9/11-style attacks.
The location of that new space command hasn’t been released, but several Colorado lawmakers have said it likely will land back in Colorado Springs, home to most military space work, including the Air Force Space Command and the new Joint Forces Space Component Command.
Another sign that points toward the U.S. Space Command coming here: In the National Defense Authorization Act that passed Congress this month, lawmakers authorized Air Force Space Command Boss Gen. Jay Raymond to head a U.S. Space Command if one is established by the Pentagon.
As Air Force Space Command boss, Raymond is in charge of that service’s efforts in space. As head of the U.S. Space Command, Raymond would be in charge of all military action in space regardless of the service involved.
Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said Pence’s speech was all good news for the Pikes Peak region.
“As the epicenter for the defense space enterprise, Colorado Springs stands to gain a tremendous amount as we move forward with these reforms,” Lamborn said.
The congressman, who has backed the Space Force plan, said he will work with other Colorado lawmakers to make sure the state keeps its the leading role in military space programs.
“This is a good day for our nation and our community, and a bad one for those who wish to threaten our dominance in space,” Lamborn said.
Pence described the U.S. Space Command as a step toward carrying out Trump’s vision of a separate Space Force. That new armed service has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and Pentagon insiders because creating it also means creating a whole slate of management and support services that would balloon the costs of military space endeavors.
Pence, though, doubled-down on the separate force plan, saying Trump wants a new department in the Pentagon for the Space Force, a move that means a new secretary of Space Force and scores of other top leadership jobs. Pence called for a Space Force by 2020, and he got applause from his boss on Twitter.
“Space Force all the way!” Trump tweeted.
Pence, who heads the National Space Council re-established by Trump, said the new armed service can be justified by the rising threats to American interests in orbit.
“Space is essential to our nation’s security, prosperity and our very way of life,” Pence said.
The American armed forces use space for navigation, communication, intelligence, weather forecasting and other services in combat.
Without satellites, troops would be deaf, dumb and blind on the battlefield, a reality that fits into enemy war plans that increasingly target American advantages in orbit.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday that the competition above the planet requires the Pentagon to react.
“It is becoming a contested warfighting domain, and we have to adapt to that reality,” Mattis said.
During his Pentagon address Thursday, Pence specifically called out the anti-satellite capabilities of Russia, China and North Korea.
Pence said previous administrations have done “all but nothing” in the face of threats in space.
“While our adversaries have been busy weaponizing space, we have too often been busy bureaucratizing it,” he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx