U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed the Pentagon to establish a “space force” as the sixth branch of the American military.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” Trump said, in a speech delivered at a meeting of the National Space Council.
“We must have American dominance in space.”
Trump ordered the U.S. Department of Defence and the Pentagon to “immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces.”
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The president characterized his own announcement as a “big statement,” and added that the Space Force and the Air Force will be considered “separate but equal.”
The Air Force has requested a budget of US$156.3 billion for next year. It’s unclear if the price tag for Trump’s new Space Force will be identical.
The U.S. military currently consists of five branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
“It is going to be something — so important,” Trump said.
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The announcement comes three months after Trump first floated the idea, sparking some ridicule over the notion of soldiers in space.
“Space is a war-fighting arena, just like the land, air and sea,” he said in a March 13 address to a gathering of U.S. Marines.
Trump said at the time that he first came up with the Space Force as a joke, but quickly became enamoured with the idea.
“I was saying it the other day because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space,” he previously said.
“We’ll call it the space force and I was not really serious, and then I said, ‘What a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that.’”
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No military battles have been fought in space to date, although the U.S. and Soviet Union poured large amounts of their military budgets into the space race during the Cold War.
Trump instructed NASA late last year to refocus its efforts on landing humans on the Moon again, rather than trying to send them directly to Mars.
“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints,” he said at the time. “We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond.”