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Funding for Trump’s ‘Space Force’ not included in 2019 defense bill

The Space Shuttle Exhibit featuring NASA's first Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT) in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (Jim Copes/U.S. Air Force)
July 26, 2018

In June, President Donald Trump announced a new branch of the military he called the “Space Force,” but it looks like plans to create the sixth military branch are on hold for now.

President Trump had directed the Department of Defense to establish the space force as a sixth branch of the military, and declared Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to head the project.

However, the establishment of a new military branch is actually up to Congress, Defense News recently reported.

So far, Congress has not carried out the President’s plans.

On Monday, both the Senate and House came together on a $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) defense report for fiscal year 2019, which is expected to be voted on next week. The bill could have contained an authorization for a Space Force, but it did not.

The preliminary funding bill only mentioned the office of the Defense Secretary to “develop a space war fighting policy,” but does not mention steps for a military branch allocated to that mission, The Atlantic reported.

Despite the bill, President Trump spoke before veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention this week to reiterate his plans for the Space Force.

It’s unclear whether Congress is ignoring the President’s plans, or if they didn’t have enough time to incorporate the proposal into the bill during early spring when other proposals were made.

Some have concerns about militarizing space, as well as the bureaucracy and cost involved in a new military branch.

Last year, defense officials rejected a House proposal for a “space force” to oversee space-related military matters within the Air Force.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said: “The Pentagon is complicated enough. This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”

However, when President Trump discussed the idea of a Space Force in March, defense officials stayed mostly quiet and were careful not to publicly criticize the President’s idea.

Defense Department Spokeswoman Dana White said in June: “We understand the President’s guidance.”

“Our policy board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” White added.

The Pentagon directed nonprofit research organization CNA to study whether or not a Space Force military branch is a feasible possibility.

The organization is expected to produce a preliminary report in August, and a final report by the end of the year, which will be submitted to Congress for consideration.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said: “The President has given clear direction to the Department of Defense to create a Space Force as a sixth armed service of the United States, and looks forward to the imminent report by the DOD studying the need for and implementation of a Space Force.”

“The administration is working to implement that direction, and will continue to work with Congress on a legislative proposal,” she added.