U.S. president Donald Trump claimed to be ordering a sixth military branch to focus on space exploration. But critics say that this could be detrimental to the Air Force.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said prior to a meeting of his National Space Council.
“We are going to have the Air Force and we’re going to have the ‘Space Force.’ Separate but equal. It is going to be something,” he said at a later time.
The idea of a Space Force has been raised by previous administrations, with supporters saying that it could increase the efficiency of the Pentagon. But the idea is not supported by all senior military officials.
At a 2017 congressional hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said the branch would “move us in the wrong direction.”
“Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart,”said U.S. Senator and Democrat Bill Nelson. “Too many missions at stake.”
According to an anonymous U.S. defense official, the Pentagon would have to work with Congress to implement the order.
“Space is a war fighting domain, so it is vital that our military maintains its dominance and competitive advantage in that domain,” the official said.
Modern U.S. space exploration typically focuses on remote spacecraft without human crew members. However, American presidents have raised the possibility of sending humans to the moon or even further into space.