Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

Mike Pence

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Mattis, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, General Selva, General Goldfein, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and all the men and women of the United States Department of Defense who each and every day oversee the greatest military in the history of the world: Thank you for all you do every day for the American people.  (Applause.)

It is my great honor, Mr. Secretary, to join you here today at the Pentagon.  And let me begin by bringing greetings from your Commander-in-Chief, who has from the very earliest days of this administration proved himself to be a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, committed to strengthening American security here on Earth and in space.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

In his Inaugural Address to the nation, President Trump proclaimed that the United States stands, in his words, “at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space.”

And since day one of our administration, this President has kept his promise to restore America’s proud legacy of leadership in space, believing that space is essential to our nation’s security, prosperity, and our very way of life.

Last year, after it had lain dormant for nearly a quarter-century, President Trump revived the National Space Council to reinvigorate and coordinate space activities across our government.

It is my great honor, as Vice President, to serve as the Chairman of the National Space Council.  And I’m pleased to report that President Trump has already signed three new space policy directives to reorient our space program toward human exploration, unleash America’s burgeoning commercial space companies, and safeguard our vital space assets with new space traffic management policy.

But as Commander-in-Chief, President Trump’s highest priority is the safety and security of the American people.  And while, too often, previous administrations all but neglected the growing security threats emerging in space, President Trump stated clearly and forcefully that space is, in his words, “a warfighting domain, just like…land, [and] air, and sea.”

And just as we’ve done in ages past, the United States of America, under his leadership, will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield with American ingenuity and strength to defend our nation, protect our people, and carry the cause of liberty and peace into the next great American frontier.

In 1939, at the start of the Second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization.  But as Nazi air forces bombed their way from Warsaw to London, our military commanders took decisive action then to meet that new threat head on.

By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes, and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier.

America and our allies emerged victorious from World War II because of the strength of our armed forces, and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day.  We knew that airpower had forever changed the nature of war, so we marshaled the resources and the will to build the most powerful air force the world had ever seen.

And just two years after that terrible conflict, our nation created a new branch of service to secure American dominance in the skies for generations to come with the creation of the United States Air Force.

Now the time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people and to our nation.  The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.

And that’s what brings us here today.  Seven weeks ago, President Trump directed the Department of Defense “to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

The President made it clear that our ultimate objective is to create a new branch of our military that is separate from, and equal to, five other branches.

Today, the Department of Defense will release a report outlining the first stages of our administration’s plan to implement the President’s guidance and turn his vision into a reality.

This report reviews the national security space activities within the Department of Defense, and it identifies concrete steps that our administration will take to lay the foundation for a new Department of the Space Force.

Now, to be clear, the Space Force will not be built from scratch because the men and the women who run and protect our nation’s space programs today are already the best in the world.  And since the dawn of the Space Age, America has remained the best in space.  (Applause.)

Over the past 60 years, the United States has assembled the largest and most sophisticated constellation of military and intelligence satellites in the world.

We’ve pioneered the technology to leverage American power in space here on Earth, and give our warfighters the intelligence that they need, and give our intelligence community the information they need to maintain a strategic advantage wherever our warfighters are operating.

Across this Department and our intelligence agency, there are literally tens of thousands of military personnel, civilians, and contractors operating and supporting our space systems, and together they’re the eyes and the ears of America’s warfighters around the globe.  And they do a remarkable job.

I’ve seen their work firsthand.  I’ve traveled across the country to meet with the men and women who are fighting for America’s future in space in my first year and a half on this job, from the airmen of the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, whose fleet of surveillance, navigation, and communication satellites increase the agility, precision, and effectiveness of our armed forces; to the engineers of the Missile Defense Agency at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama who are forging the next generation of rockets to strengthen our missile defense; to the many other bases and facilities across the country where our men and women in uniform work together with our intelligence community and our allies to protect our people, our nation, and our interests around the world.

And over the past 18 months, President Trump and our entire administration have taken decisive action to strengthen American power in space as well.

President Trump recently signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.  (Applause.)  And that new Defense budget included new resources for two cutting-edge military communications satellites and nearly $1 billion for our space defense programs.  And today, we renew the President’s call on the Congress of the United States to invest an additional $8 billion in our space security systems over the next five years.

The men and women of this Department have also taken historic steps to secure American leadership in space.  At the direction of Secretary Mattis, the Department of Defense is fielding a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communications satellites and new missile-warning satellites that are smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.

And while these steps have been vital to our national defense, they’re really only a beginning.  They’re only a beginning of meeting the rising security threats our nation faces in space today and in the future.  As President Trump has said, in his words, “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space.”  And so we will.  (Applause.)

And that’s precisely why we’re beginning the process of establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of our armed forces.  Just as in the past, when we created the Air Force, establishing the Space Force is an idea whose time has come.

The space environment has fundamentally changed in the last generation.  What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial.  Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and challenge American supremacy in space as never before.

For many years, nations from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind, and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground.

But recently, our adversaries have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself.  In 2007, China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed one of its own satellites — a highly provocative demonstration of China’s growing capability to militarize space.

Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based system.  And it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites.

Both China and Russia have been conducting highly sophisticated on-orbit activities that could enable them to maneuver their satellites into close proximity of ours, posing unprecedented new dangers to our space systems.

Both nations are also investing heavily in what are known as hypersonic missiles designed to fly up to five miles per second at such low altitudes that they could potentially evade detection by our missile-defense radars.  In fact, China claimed to have made its first successful test of a hypersonic vehicle just last week.

China and Russia are also aggressively working to incorporate anti-satellite attacks into their warfighting doctrines.  In 2015, China created a separate military enterprise to oversee and prioritize its warfighting capabilities in space.

As their actions make clear, our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already.  And the United States will not shrink from this challenge.  (Applause.)  Under President Trump’s leadership, we will meet it head on to defend our nation and build a peaceful future here on Earth and in space.

America will always seek peace in space as on the Earth.  But history proves that peace only comes through strength.  And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead.  (Applause.)

Now, the report the Department of Defense will release today, that Secretary Mattis just referenced, represents a critical step toward establishing the Space Force as the sixth branch of our armed forces.  It actually identifies four actions that we will take to evolve our space capabilities, and they are built on the lessons of the past.

We all remember the hard lesson learned in the early 1980s, as the tragic debacle of Desert One took place.  Eight American patriots fell in the line of duty while trying to rescue their fellow Americans who were being held hostage in Iran.

In the wake of that failed mission, America resolved to ensure that our joint warfighters would always have the training, coordination, and leadership they needed to accomplish their missions.  And the steps that our nation took in the years that followed paved the way for the creation of the United States Special Operations Command.

Since that time, this vital combatant command has directed our Special Operations Forces to become the most effective and lethal fighting force in the history of the world.  (Applause.)  Our Special Operations Forces, through this unified command, have been defending our security and advancing interests, as they do to this very hour, in every corner of the globe.

Along those same lines, today’s report calls for the creation of a new unified combatant command for space: The United States Space Command.

This new command structure for the physical domain of space, led by a four-star flag officer, will establish unified command and control for our Space Force operations, ensure integration across the military, and develop the space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures of the future.

The second step this report calls for is the creation of an elite group of joint warfighters specializing in the domain of space who will form the backbone of the nation’s newest armed service: Space Operations Force.

Just like our Special Operations Forces, a Space Operations Force will draw men and women from across the military and will grow into their own unique and cohesive community.  They’ll support the combatant commands by providing space expertise in times of crisis and conflict.

Third, this report calls for the creation of a new joint organization, the Space Development Agency, that will ensure the men and women of the Space Force have the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities that they need and deserve.

While our adversaries have been busy weaponizing space, too often we have bureaucratized it.  And over time, our ability to adapt to new and emerging threats has been stifled by needless layers of red tape.

The Space Development Agency will break free from ineffective and duplicative bureaucratic structures to focus on innovation, experimentation, and forging the technologies of the future.

The men and women of the Department of Defense have pioneered some of the most groundbreaking discoveries in our armed forces that literally have revolutionized our national defense in times of need, from General Schriever’s creation of the intercontinental ballistic missile to Admiral Rickover’s development of the Navy’s nuclear enterprise.

And now we must do our part to make bold breakthroughs, strengthen America’s industrial base, and deliver the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities faster than our adversaries could ever imagine.  And that’s exactly what Americans will do.  (Applause.)

Finally, this report calls for clear lines of responsibility and accountability to manage the process of standing up and scaling up the United States Department of the Space Force.

Creating a new branch of the military is not a simple process.  It will require collaboration, diligence, and above all, leadership.  As challenges arise, deadlines approach, there must be someone in charge who can execute, hold others accountable, and be responsible for the results.

So we will create a single civilian position, reporting to the Secretary of Defense, to oversee the growth and expansion of this new branch of service.  This position will be a new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space.  And this leader will be key to the critical transition to a fully independent Secretary of the Space Force in the years ahead.

President Trump and I are grateful — truly grateful to Secretary Mattis for this Department’s diligence in preparing this report.  And our administration will soon take action to implement these recommendations, with the objective of establishing the United States Department of the Space Force by the year 2020.

Ultimately, Congress must act to establish this new Department which will organize, train, and equip the United States Space Force.

Our administration is already working with leaders in the Congress to do just that.  We’re building bipartisan support for our plan, working closely with committee counterparts like Congressman Mac Thornberry, and Congressman Adam Smith, and Congressman Mike Rogers, and Congressman Jim Cooper.

Next February, in the President’s budget, we will call on the Congress to marshal the resources we need to stand up the Space Force.

And before the end of next year, our administration will work with the Congress to enact the statutory authority for the Space Force in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Our nation’s armed forces have always been the vanguard of advancing American leadership here on Earth and beyond.  And the Space Force is the next and the natural evolution of American military strength.

The first American rockets in space were launched by our military.  The first American satellites to orbit the Earth were on reconnaissance missions, peering behind the Iron Curtain.  The first Americans to step forward to venture into the unknown were the world’s greatest aviators and test pilots from the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps.

And the next generation of Americans to confront the emerging threats in the boundless expanse of space will be wearing the uniform of the United States of America as well.  (Applause.)

And I’ll promise you, your Commander-in-Chief is going to continue to work tirelessly toward this goal, and we expect you all to do the same.

And to all the men and women of this Department: This is the moment.  Now is the time to act quickly, using all the tools at your disposal to lead our nation forward with President Trump’s vision to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

There is much work to do.  Success will demand the very best of each of you.  So be bold, be creative, unencumbered by the past or the status quo.  And remember, when it comes to defending our nation and protecting our way of life, the only thing we can’t afford is inaction.  The American people deserve our very best, and they will have it.

As the President will discuss in further detail in the days ahead, the United States Space Force will strengthen our security, it will ensure our prosperity, and it will also carry American ideals into the boundless expanse of space.

While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law.  So as we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America’s commitment to freedom into this new frontier.  (Applause.)

So this is the moment.  Now is the time to do as Americans have always done in ages past, to lead with strength and a pioneering spirit into the future.  And under the leadership of President Trump, our Commander-in-Chief, we will take the first bold steps to ensure our security on Earth and in outer space with renewed American strength.

And as we embark, we do so with faith.  Faith in all of you who have answered the call to serve in the uniform of the United States of America at such a time as this in the life of our nation.  Faith to all the incredible civilian personnel who serve here in the Department of Defense with equal devotion to our nation.

And we do so with that other kind of faith as well.  And just as generations of Americans have carried those who have taken to the skies in the defense of freedom borne upon their prayers, I want to assure all of you, who will be called to this enterprise, that you can be confident.  You can be confident that you will go with the prayers of millions of Americans who will claim on your behalf, as generations have claimed before, those ancient words, that if you “rise on the wings of the dawn, if [you] settle on the far side of the sea,” even if you go up to the heavens, “even there His hand will guide [you], His right hand will hold [you] fast.”  And He will hold fast this great nation in the great beyond.

So thank you for your service to the country for all of you who have been called to serve in our armed forces.  With your unwavering commitment, with the courage of our men and women in uniform, with the continued support of the American people, with the vision and leadership of our Commander-in Chief, and with God’s help, I know we will give America the defense she needs here on Earth and in the outer reaches of space.

Thank you.  And God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    “Both nations are also investing heavily in what are known as hypersonic
    missiles designed to fly up to five miles per second at such low
    altitudes that they could potentially evade detection by our
    missile-defense radars.”

    Totally ignoring the screaming IR signature that any ground based IRST system should be able to provide a guidance solution for a intercepting missile acting as a terminal defense. The fear of MARV also shows a major policy change. MAD is no longer in the drivers seat. Our current strategic posture is to have the capability to absorb a first strike and still have the means of retaliation. The system was built with no ABM in mind. MARVs are employed to bypass an ABM shield. Presumably our ABM systems were not defending missile fields but rather cities against small bit players like North Korea or an early 2000’s level Chinese attempt at a counterforce strike. In a system made to absorb a first strike MARV means nothing to you. The new policy is to fight a nuclear war full spectrum.

    “Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based
    system. And it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched
    from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites.”

    And I suppose he’s never heard of the ASM-135. Gotta love those old SRAM’s, they were SOOOO useful.

    …. Then there’s this …

    “We all remember the hard lesson learned in the early 1980s, as the
    tragic debacle of Desert One took place. Eight American patriots fell
    in the line of duty while trying to rescue their fellow Americans who
    were being held hostage in Iran.”

    What does that have to do with space? Eagle Claw failed because the equipment was not ready to deal with the effects of operating in a desert and improper provisions for fuel. Pulling this out of the luminiferous aether is strange. Perhaps Iran is a ‘talking point’ of the administration.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Pence is pandering to right wing nut jobs

  • AdmBenson

    I wonder if Trump is going to use the Space Force to end run NASA back to the moon. Think about it – the necessary equipment can be purchased from SpaceX, Blue Origin and ULA. It doesn’t need to be developed in-house like SLS/Orion. While the military value of the moon is currently minuscule, the symbolic value to the newest armed service by landing there would be the inestimable.

    This may sound like crazy talk, but I doubt that the Space Force will become reality without a compelling early mission. If our Space Warriors are all computer jockeys rather than astronauts, the public won’t be supportive. Plus, when you consider that Trump was a reality TV showman, it would seem to be exactly the type of thing he would do to maximize the drama.

  • AdmBenson

    Another thought – suppose that asteroid defense becomes the responsibility of the Space Force. Now you need sensor systems and weapons at various points in cislunar space (probably the Lagrange points and the lunar surface). Since the technology to handle this threat doesn’t exist yet, a manned deep space “battle lab” could be justified.

    Of course, all this will be outrageously expensive. They might even have to end the war in Afghanistan to pay for it.

  • AdmBenson

    By the way, what’s the enlistment age cut-off for the Space Force? I can still do pushups (a couple) and run 2 miles (with breaks and snacks). If I was a rogue asteroid, I’d be starting to worry.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Why do folks seem to think this is some radical change? The US Space Force will basically be doing what the US Space Command has done for decades. It’s just that without the pilot led USAF taking money from it for aircraft they will have the funding to do it better.

    As for recruitment requirements, it will likely be the same as for the USAF and the current US Space Command.

  • Tom Billings

    “This may sound like crazy talk, but I doubt that the Space Force will become reality without a compelling early mission.”

    The compelling mission is provided by the threat from the PLA’s “Strategic Support Force”, specializing in Space War and Cyber War since its 2015 establishment. The basics are to maintain the “force multiplier” effects of US MilSpace activities in the face of opposition from the PLASSF, using tech they began testing in 2007. Since the Air Staff of the USAF has done nothing since then to provide funding to counter those threats, it is time to move MilSpace out from under the people who’ve spent their careers keeping fighter squadrons combat ready, at the expense of MilSpace funding.

    ” If our Space Warriors are all computer jockeys rather than astronauts, the public won’t be supportive.”

    Since they’ve supported the NSA’ computer jockey cadre right through the 45 years of WW3, it seems improbable that they will run screaming from a Space Force.

  • AdmBenson

    I’m serious about that asteroid defense stuff. If the Chelyabinsk meteorite (or Tunguska, for that matter) had happened in the US, it wouldn’t be a hard sell to include that mission under the Space Force purview. While exceedingly rare, a collision with an asteroid can be far more catastrophic than a nuclear weapon. Right now, we have the technology to give some warning to people that the end is near, but can’t do anything to stop it from happening. The asteroid threat is pretty much something that, once it is recognized, it’s already too late to deal with it. On the other hand, if the Space Force spends a few years laying in defenses and practicing their skills, doom can be avoided.

    On a different note, this is a forum for space enthusiasts which is a tiny fraction of taxpayers. Something as big as a new armed service will require public support in order to be realized. If the justification for it centers on resource struggles within the Department of Defense, it will fail to capture the imaginations of the people footing the bill. Trump and Pence need to voice a rationale for this move that is straightforward and understandable to the general public.

  • AdmBenson
  • voronwae

    Until everyone agrees that we need a Space Force, as opposed to some sort of Space Corps or an enhancement to the Space Command, it’ll be a red-headed stepchild. I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around it myself; it’s difficult not to believe that Trump is imagining a bunch of Starship Troopers going off to fight in space with his face emblazoned on their chests.

  • voronwae

    If you can coalesce your paragraph down to one short sentence, something like “fights on land” or “fights in the air”, maybe the public will have a chance of understanding what the Space Force is for.

    “Fights in space” doesn’t really do it, because, for one, nobody can picture a bunch of soldiers piling out of a spacecraft into another one (I guess) unless he’s either Donald Trump or George Lucas.

  • voronwae

    In the absence of a real explanation, get up and make a speech about our brave soldiers, times when America has been struck by other nations, and invocations to God to preserve our country from foreign devils.

    “God Bless the United States, and that’s why we need a Space Force!”

  • redneck

    Controls the high ground.

  • Tom Billings

    And yet fighting *in* Space is the last thing they’ll want to do for a number of years. The value of MilSpace is in information, gathering it, communicating it, dispersing it.

    “Knowledge is the sharpest sword of war”

    *That* is the value of a Space Force. Fighting will come only when we cannot run to new orbits while still serving the Army, Navy AF and Marines with the force multiplier affects of MilSpace provided information.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Most of the public dosen’t really care about such policy details. The drive will be from the members of Congress and lobbyists for the aerospace firms.

    As for planetary defense, that is something that is indeed important and this might be a good place to put it.

  • AdmBenson

    A new service needs a new service academy to train officers. Here’s a few ideas for where it should be located:

    1) Mojave, CA. This location has history behind it and is likely to raise home values in Doug’s neighborhood.
    2) The Presidio in San Francisco. If it’s good enough for Star Fleet, it’s good enough for Space Force.
    3) Spaceport America. NM politicians will pay you to take it (then hide the fact from their own citizens.)
    4) Huntsville, AL. It would be a consolation prize for killing SLS.
    5) The summit of Haleakala, Maui. It looks just like Mars, man!
    6) Portland, OR. No stranger to space cadets.
    7) Vandenberg AFB. Pre-equipped with an assortment of launch pads.
    8) Titusville, FL. Fun, sun and close to Disney World.
    9) Detroit, MI. Think if it as urban renewal.
    10) Cambridge, MA. Buy off the blue staters.

  • ThomasLMatula

    It will be more than a few hundred, currently there are over 20,000 serving in the USAF Space Command that will serve as the core of it. The USAF Space Command has a $12 billion budget and facilities all over the world including CAFS, VAFB and PAFB. All would become part of the U.S. Space Force when it’s spin off.

  • Hemingway
  • ThomasLMatula

    Or, like the U.S. Marines with the U.S. Navy, just share the U.S.A.F. Academy.

  • AdmBenson