Space Force 'Critical' to Countering Threats, New Head of Space Command Says

President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence, watch as the U.S. Space Command flag is unfurled during a ceremony to establish the U.S. Space Command in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence, watch as the U.S. Space Command flag is unfurled during a ceremony to establish the U.S. Space Command in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Now that U.S. Space Command is a reality, the Pentagon is more determined than ever to build a force of warriors trained and equipped to fight in space.

The creation of a U.S. Space Force will be a "critical" next step to ensure that the U.S. maintains its superiority in space, Air Force Gen. John Raymond, who assumed command of U.S. Space Command on Thursday, told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon activated U.S. Space Command Thursday as a geographic combatant command designed to defend America's access to space from adversaries such as China and Russia.

Space Command is part of a larger effort to operate in the space domain that was accelerated last June when President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to begin plans to create a U.S. Space Force, which will serve as a sixth branch of the U.S. military.

Related: Pentagon Activates Space Command to Prepare for War in the Final Frontier

A proposal in the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation would require Congress to update U.S. Code Title 10, the law that governs the role of the U.S. military, to provide the necessary authority to the Defense Department to establish a sixth branch, said Steve Kitay, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Space Policy.

"What we are asking for and requesting of Congress is to actually establish a sixth branch of the armed forces -- the United States Space Force," he said. "Our proposal is to do it within the Department of the Air Force, so this is a similar concept in so far as how the United States Marine Corps is a separate branch of the armed forces; however, it's within the Department of the Navy."

If established, the Space Force would work with Space Command much like the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines provide fighting forces for traditional combatant commands, Raymond said.

Space Force would be responsible for organizing, training and equipping warfighters specifically designed to operate in the space domain, Raymond said.

"Just like in all other domains ... U.S. Space Command will be reliant on the United States Space Force to provide its forces for us to then execute ... as the services organize, train and equip forces to combatant commands to conduct operations," he said. "We think that is an absolute imperative to elevate space to its own separate force."

For now, the new U.S. Space Command will start out as a headquarters with personnel from a Joint Force Space Component Command and those who have been conducting the space mission of U.S. Strategic Command, Raymond said.

Space Command will be responsible for defending U.S. space capabilities from threats such as Russia and China, both of which began reforming their space operations to counter U.S. interests in the domain, Pentagon officials say.

"With this command -- and with the Space Force, that is also an extremely important imperative for us -- we will stay ahead of that threat into the future," Raymond said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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