President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is directing the Department of Defense to create a new "space force" to become the sixth branch of the U.S. military.
"My administration is reclaiming America's heritage as the world's greatest spacefaring nation," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council, with Vice President Mike Pence standing by him. "The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers, but our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security, so important for our military."
"When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space, so important," Trump said. "Very importantly, I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces."
Trump said the Air Force and future Space Force would be "separate, but equal."
Trump ordered Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to begin implementing the directive.
Trump has previously spoken about creating a space force, but this is the first concrete move, at least publicly, in that direction. The Air Force is currently responsible for space warfare, with the Air Force Space Command in charge of operating and protecting military satellites.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is responsible for the country's civilian space program. Budget cuts in recent have resulted in fewer Americans going into space, leading some observers to call for the U.S. to explore space in a way not done since before the space shuttle came into existence.