A White House panel has put forward plans to unify space assets under a central command structure ahead of the creation of a "Space Force." Trump has said the military branch would "assert American dominance in space."
The US National Space Council on Monday provided the Trump administration with new ways to develop the country's nominal military outfit dubbed the Space Force.
"The National Space Council is making recommendations to the president to essentially begin with establishing a unified Space Command, much in the way that we established a Special Forces command," said US Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the advisory panel.
At a conference organized by the Washington Post newspaper, Pence said the White House is preparing to ask Congress to take the necessary steps to form such a unified command structure, which would bring together thousands of people already working on space security.
"It will not in the first instance look like other branches of the service that were stood up. It will be a consolidation, we believe, and from there future Congresses and future administrations can grow and expand and nurture … the Space Force as they see fit," Pence said.
Read more: Opinion: US Space Force merely symbolic
'Dominance in space'
In June, President Trump announced plans to establish a new branch of the military that would assert "American dominance in space." At the time, he directed the Pentagon to "begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces."
The Pentagon has since come out and said establishing the Space Force would cost approximately $13 billion (€11.3 billion) in its first five years and would likely bring together an estimated 13,000 people.
However, Pence noted on Monday that forming a new branch of the armed forces would take time and Congressional approval. He said that the creation of an independent military branch would likely happen in 2020
Although opposition lawmakers and even some among Trump's Republican Party have criticized the plan, some observers have suggested it may be a step in the right direction.
"This isn't science fiction. This isn't about creating space marines or some expeditionary space force that is going to go out and conquer the universe," Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Associated Press. "This is simply a reorganization" of existing space assets.
But other analysts have been more wary of the prospect of a US Space Force. William D. Hartung, director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy, warned that the "Space Force" could be used as a campaign ploy like "the Wall" – or a "big idea that appeals to Trump's base but would be wildly impractical and hugely expensive to implement."
Read more: A question about race in space
Trump needs Congressional approval to start building what he envisions as an independent military branch
ls/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP)