When President Trump first suggested the creation of a Space Force during a March 2018 speech, the grand and seemingly sci-fi proposal was met with mockery in some corners.
Some of the more serious criticisms of the idea came from the Air Force Association, which voiced objections based on the “indivisible” nature of air and space and the high cost of creating a separate military branch. The AFA instead suggested merging the current air and space forces of the United States into something called the “United States Aerospace Force.”
Though it now appears the Aerospace Force counterproposal will not come to fruition, after months of deliberation, the Space Force is presently poised to reside under the Air Force, according to Defense News.
Sixth branch of military would fall under Department of the Air Force
A draft of a legislative proposal set to be put forward with the fiscal year 2020 budget states, “There is established a United States Space Force as an armed force within the Department of the Air Force,” reports Defense News.
The relationship will be similar to the way in which the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy.
The new, sixth branch of the military will be overseen by two newly created roles, the undersecretary of the Air Force for the Space Force and a Space Force chief of staff. The latter will sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joining the Military Service Chiefs from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Though no one has gone on the record to outline the details of the legislative draft, the existence of the draft was at least confirmed by a statement from Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, who said, “In concert with White House guidance, we are moving forward with a legislative proposal for Space Force.” The proposal is reportedly set to be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for inclusion in the Department of Defense budget sometime soon.
New proposal seen as big win for Air Force
This decision represents a major victory for the Air Force, which took issue with President Trump’s earlier statement that the two branches would be “separate but equal.”
At the time, the creation of a new bureaucracy was opposed by now-former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and active Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Though the latter eventually announced her support for the creation of a Space Force, it seems clear that the Air Force would like to continue to have a say in the area of military space, as the branch currently manages a three-star Space Command headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
Of course, just because the Air Force is satisfied with the new proposal does not mean that Congress will be, and political opposition could still keep Space Force from launching.
Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has previously voiced opposition to the high cost of creating a separate service, reports ABC News. Estimates vary, as the Air Force projected that a new service could cost $13 billion over the first five years, while Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan put the figure at less than $5 billion.
For now, it remains uncertain whether Space Force will ultimately become a separate branch of the United States military or a new branch under the Air Force.