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Is Trump’s Space Force on life support or still taking off?

President Donald Trump (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Trump’s dream of a “Space Force” to protect American satellites either had a setback or made “significant progress” this week, depending on your perspective.

An Alabama congressman pushing for the new military branch, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), stands in the “significant progress” camp. That’s even though no money for the new force was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 before Congress this week.

National press reports about the funding omission used headlines like “No space force for Trump in big Pentagon policy bill” and “Congress fails to fund Trump’s ‘Space Force’ in defense budget bill.” Reporters said in their stories that Trump’s plan to create a separate, sixth branch of the military had hit a “roadblock” and didn’t “blast off.”

But Rogers pointed to sections in the budget authorization bill establishing “a sub-unified command for space,” ordering the Pentagon to develop an alternative acquisition system for “national security space” and a “plan to improve the quality of the space cadre within the Air Force.”

“It also directs the DoD to deliver a space warfighting policy and readiness plan,” Rogers said in a statement. “All of these steps lay the groundwork for implementing President Trump’s direction to establish a Space Force.”

Rogers said Congress can flesh out the new force after these reports are finished. “The existing organizations that will be organized under the Space Force will be on a much stronger footing than when this process started,” he said.

Rogers is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of its Strategic Forces Subcommittee. He is trying to help Trump succeed in his vision of a separate branch of the military devoted to space defense.

The president ordered the Pentagon to create the new force in June. He agrees with Rogers and other supporters of a separate force who say America can’t function without the satellites that support systems such as finance, communications, defense, transportation and weather forecasting. Those satellites and other assets need a defensive force focused on them and not also focused on air defenses like the Air Force.

But opponents say the new force will mean more bureaucracy, more expense and more confusion among America’s military forces. The Army and the Air Force are already heavily involved in space defense, these skeptics say, and the current time of global tension isn’t the time to sort out which responsibility goes where.

U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks of Huntsville and Bradley Byrne of Mobile have already suggested publicly that the new force should be headquartered in Huntsville. Commands already at the Redstone Arsenal there are heavily involved in missile defense.


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