President Trump today issued Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4) that orders the Secretary of Defense to create a legislative proposal that, if approved by Congress, would establish the administration’s proposed United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

According to a White House announcement, SPD-4 sets out the “framework for establishing” the Space Force, with a plan to initially house the organization within the Air Force.

The directive further orders a joint interagency review by the National Space Council and the National Security Council–both of which are White House organizations–“to recommend changes to space operational authorities in order to address the threats posed by foreign adversaries.”

SPD-4 also requires the Defense Department and intelligence agencies “to create collaborative mechanisms to improve space capabilities and operations,” the White House said.

“Establishing the Space Force is critical to preparing the Department of Defense for the evolving warfighting environments of the twenty-first century,” the White House added.

The text of SPD-4 has not been publicly released, and the White House’s announcement of its signing appears to be longer on goal-setting and shorter on details, including expected timelines for the ordered legislative proposal, creation of the yet-to-be-formed military force, and its establishment as a separate branch of the Armed Forces.

The White House announcement does, however, offer several declarations of purpose that might provide hints at goals that may be guiding the Space Force plan, including:

  • Strengthening the U.S.’s ability to “compete, deter and win in an increasingly contested domain”;
  • Training and equipping “our space warfighters with next-generation capabilities”;
  • “Maximizing warfighting capability and advocacy for space while minimizing bureaucracy”; and
  • Addressing “looming threats from foreign adversaries in space to maintain our leadership and outpace competitors.”

The most detailed account of the administration’s thinking on creation of a U.S. Space Force was delivered last year by Vice President Pence.  He unveiled plans to establish a new U.S. Space Command–a move that subsequently was authorized in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act–and the longer-term plan to create U.S. Space Force with a hoped-for completion date of 2020.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.