The military and Congress have warned that a plan to establish another branch of the armed forces over space protection and space missions would require a long and detailed process, and that the current period of global conflict is not the time to weigh the armed forces down with bureaucratic measures.
“At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in a letter last year to Representative Michael R. Turner, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. Mr. Turner has opposed a legislative effort by the House Armed Services Committee to create a space division of the military.
After Mr. Trump’s announcement, the Pentagon released a statement from Dana W. White, the Defense Department’s chief spokeswoman. “We understand the president’s guidance,” she said. “Our policy board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”
Last year, Congress punted on a decision to establish a space corps through the National Defense Authorization Act, and asked for an independent study on the issue. That report is due in August. A more expansive report, which is required to include an extensive road map to a space force, is due by the end of the year.
Either way, legislative hurdles would lie ahead.
The creation of a sixth branch of the military to join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard would require congressional authorization and approval. Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who is on the Senate Commerce Committee overseeing the nation’s space program — and who once spent six days in space — said that the president’s order lacked the support of the generals who would be required to carry it out.
“Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart,” Mr. Nelson said on Twitter. “Too many important missions at stake.”