President Donald Trump signaled once again on Tuesday that he wants to create a new branch of the US military dedicated to fighting in outer space.
While addressing members of the West Point football team at the White House, Trump floated the idea of adding a “Space Force” branch to the US military – a concept that has received some support on Capitol Hill but drawn skepticism from the Pentagon.
“You will be part of the five proud branches of the United States Armed Forces – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard. And we’re actually thinking of a sixth, and that would be the Space Force,” Trump said while presenting the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the Army football team in the Rose Garden.
“You probably haven’t even heard that. I’m just telling you now. We’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force,” he said.
Trump previously voiced his support for creating a “space force” during a speech in March before military members in California.
“Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said at the time. “We may even have a space force.”
The endorsement was praised by Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican who’s the chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
“I am thrilled that the Space Corps idea is gaining traction at the White House. Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) and I have worked tirelessly on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Strategic Forces subcommittee level on the need for a Space Corps outside of the Air Force for over two years now,” Rogers said in a statement to CNN.
“Russia and China are surpassing us in Space capabilities and we need to dedicate a separate force solely with a Space mission. The future of war will be fought in Space, and we must stay diligent and ahead of other countries for our own national security,” he added.
Rogers and Cooper spearheaded a push last year to establish a new military branch – under the umbrella of the Air Force – focused on space.
That proposal, which was included in the House version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, would have set up a Space Corps in the mold of the Marine Corps, which is a separate military branch that’s housed within the Navy.
But despite support from House Armed Services Committee leaders – including Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican – the plan was nixed from the final version of the $700 billion bipartisan defense policy bill, which was ultimately signed by Trump in December, due to opposition from the Senate and Pentagon leaders, who argued it needed more study.
However, congressional negotiators did include a series of management and procedural changes to the existing Air Force space programs in an effort to “begin fixing the broken national security space enterprise.”
And the Pentagon “is currently conducting a space organization and management review led by the deputy secretary of defense” as mandated in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, according to Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Jamie Davis.
Bolstered by Trump’s show of support in March, House lawmakers are moving forward with their push to establish “a subordinate unified command for space under U.S. Strategic Command that would be responsible for joint space warfighting operations.”
While the proposal – outlined in a recent subcommittee markup of the 2019 National Defense Authoriztion Act – stops short of creating a new branch of the military, it is widely viewed as an incremental step in that direction as the Air Force continues to study the issue.
And according to Rogers, he and Trump spoke by phone in last month about the need for Space Corps in the near future.
“I was honored to talk to President Trump about this critical initiative and appreciate his support on an issue that is so important to me and the safety and security of the United States,” Rogers said.
CNN’s Ryan Browne and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.