The Wait Is Over: Pence Announces Coming Activation of US Space Command

Vice President Mike Pence leads the sixth meeting of the National Space Council beneath NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Aug. 20, 2019, in Chantilly, Virginia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Vice President Mike Pence leads the sixth meeting of the National Space Council beneath NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Aug. 20, 2019, in Chantilly, Virginia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The activation of U.S. Space Command, a precursor to the Trump administration's proposed U.S. Space Force, is imminent, Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday.

"Next week, we will formally stand up the new unified combatant command that will be known as the United States Space Command," he said during a speech at a meeting of the National Space Council.

At the same event, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the official activation date for USSPACECOM is Aug. 29, according to Defense News.

During his remarks, Pence recognized the head of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), who was confirmed to lead the Defense Department's 11th combatant command in June.

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"I'm pleased to announce that we will recognize its new leader: Four-star Air Force Gen. John Raymond will be the first leader of the United States Space Command," Pence said Tuesday.

Last year, DefenseOne reported that the Defense Department intended to create a new combatant command focused on space prior to debate by lawmakers over a Space Force proposal in the fiscal 2020 budget. Since then, the Air Force has taken the lead in the Space Force's creation.

Whether AFSPC will be completely absorbed by USSPACECOM has not been determined, though officials have said the Pentagon will begin a mission transfer and realignment of units between fiscal 2021 and 2022, per a strategic Space Force budget overview. Space policy and budget experts have said it would be wise to streamline operations at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, because it already hosts a robust space mission.

According to a report from Space News, personnel under AFSPC at Peterson will organized into the first U.S. Space Command unit and will report directly to Raymond for the time being.

In May, the Air Force said it began looking at six base locations for USSPACECOM, including Peterson and three other Colorado locations: Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and Schriever Air Force Base. Other options are the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

An Air Force spokesman told Military.com on Tuesday that the service is still weighing the six base location options.

"The Air Force has been designated as the executive agent for U.S. Space Command, just like all the combat commands have executive agency side," Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan told Military.com at the Paris Air Show in June. "So that's why we have the responsibility of locating the base."

The Air Force expects to approve its preferred location -- with one or two from the list as back-up options -- by the end of the summer. That will be followed by an environmental analysis, Donovan said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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