President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence officially announced the launch of U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) on Thursday from the White House’s Rose Garden.
The command’s mission will focus primarily on space-based defense, especially as threats from countries such as Russia, India, and China continue to elevate. The division will be temporarily housed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to KOAA.
Retired Air Force General William Shelton recently described Space Command’s mission as “war fighting in space” and claimed that the three aforementioned nations were already running tests on space intercepts and similar tactics. He described those activities as a type of “direct threat” that hinders America’s ability to freely operate in space.
The U.S. Air Force will oversee Space Command, which is a pre-cursor to the eventual planned launch of U.S. Space Force — a force that will act as the military wing of the program and be officially recognized as the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The establishment of U.S. Space Force will require Congressional approval.
Space Command, which was announced in February by Trump, will be led by General John Raymond, the commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base.
Shelton praised the choice of appointing Raymond as the commander, citing his vast experience in aircraft operations, U.S. Air Force Space Command, and logistics and support.
According to Fox Business, Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a recent meeting of the National Space Council that Raymond “will lead 87 active units handling operations such as missile warning, satellite surveillance, space control and space support.”
President Trump Establishes the U.S. Space Command https://t.co/l0RkDleuM1— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 29, 2019
During an August 20 press conference, Pence, who serves on the National Space Council as its chairman, described its mission intentions.
“The United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, defend our interests, and to defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense for the vast reaches of outer space,” he said.
As important as it will be to securing the United States from space-based threats, the creation of Space Force, should it be approved and passed by Congress, will add a significant increase in cost to the Pentagon’s annual budget.
Thursday at the WH. Pres Trump takes part in afternoon ceremony re-establishing the US Space Command, bringing to 11 the number of Combatant Commands in the Armed Forces. It will serve as a prelude for creation of the US Space Force, which will require Congressional action. pic.twitter.com/Xg235rjLLd— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 29, 2019
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the program will add $1 billion to $2 billion per year to the budget and that’s not counting potentially up to $5 billion to get the program started.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has been somewhat critical of the plan to launch Space Force, pointing to the complexity of launching such a program, as well as the costs involved. In a memo last year, Wilson estimated costs of $13 billion for the program’s first five years.