U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced plans Thursday for the country’s military to encompass a “Space Force” by 2020.
The vice president was at the Pentagon, and revealed the plans alongside Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“Now the time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation,” Pence said.
“The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.”
Pence said the move was “a natural evolution” for the U.S. military, which has expanded in the past with additions such as an air force.
The Space Force would be the sixth branch of the military, which currently consists of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Army.
But before that, Congressional approval is needed.
WATCH: Pence speaks about establishment of Space Force
“Ultimately, Congress must act to establish this new department, which will organize, train and equip the United States Space Force,” Pence said.
The vice president cited Russia and China as threats to U.S. space-based capabilities, saying the country intends to be a leader.
Pence echoed earlier statements by U.S. President Donald Trump and Mattis that space is becoming a “war-fighting domain” and needs to be treated as much.
“We need to address space as a developing war fighting domain and a combatant command is certainly one thing that we can — we can establish,” Mattis said earlier this week.
But the announcement didn’t excite everyone.
Former astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Captain Mark Kelly said a separate military branch devoted to space was redundant and wasteful, and that while Pence was right about the threats in outer space, the military was already handling them.
WATCH: Retired astronaut calls Space Force redundant, says Trump only person who thinks it’s a ‘good idea’
“There is a threat out there but it’s being handled by the U.S. Air Force today. (It) doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic DoD,” Kelly told MSNBC in an interview.
“It is an area where we should continue focus on,” he added, pointing in particular to China. “But we can do this within the U.S. Air Force.
— With files from The Associated Press, Reuters