WASHINGTON, June 18 (KUNA) -- US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the Pentagon to immediately establish a national "space force" that would become the sixth branch of the armed forces.
"We are going to have a space force," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council in Washington.
"An Air Force and a Space Force. Separate, but equal."
The President did not go into details about what military role the "space force" would implement or who would lead it, but he framed space as a national security issue.
"It is not enough to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space," Trump said, adding that he did not want to see "China and other countries leading us."
Trump said that Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would oversee its creation. Dunford's staff acknowledged Trump's comments in a statement, pledging to work closely with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' office, other Pentagon officials and Congress to "implement the President's guidance."
"Space is a warfighting domain, so it is vital that our military maintains its dominance and competitive advantage in that domain," the statement said.
And a spokeswoman for Mattis said in a statement that Pentagon officials "understand" the guidance.
"Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy," Dana White said.
"Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders."
Trump also called for a build-up in the long term presence in space, threw his support behind commercial space travel and signed a directive to manage space traffic.
The directive calls for providing a safe and secure environment up in orbit, as satellite traffic increases. It also sets up new guidelines for satellite design and operation, to avoid collisions and spacecraft breakups. (end)