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Trump: New Space Command ‘central to American security’

The president launched the new agency in a ceremony at the White House.

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Robert Burns, Associated Press

Donald Trump declared space crucial to America’s defence as he said the Pentagon has established Space Command as part of a broader effort to preserve US dominance in orbit.

“This is a landmark day,” the president said in a White House ceremony, “one that recognises the centrality of space to America’s national security and defence.”

He said Space Command, headed by a four-star air force general, will “ensure that America’s dominance in space is never questioned and never threatened”.

But there is still no Space Force.

Space Force, which has become a reliable applause line for Mr Trump at his campaign rallies, has yet to win final approval by Congress.

The renewed focus on space as a military domain reflects concern about the vulnerability of US satellites, both military and commercial, that are critical to US interests and are potentially susceptible to disruption by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons.

The role of Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and communications for troops and commanders in the field and providing warning of missile launches abroad.

That is different from a Space Force, which would be a distinct military service like the army, navy, air force, marines and coastguard.

Congress has inched towards approving the creation of a Space Force despite scepticism from some from both parties. The House and Senate bills differ on some points, and an effort to reconcile the two will begin after Congress returns from its August recess.

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Donald Trump with General John “Jay” Raymond (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

When Jim Mattis was defence secretary, the Pentagon was hesitant to embrace the idea of a Space Force. Mr Trump’s first Pentagon chief initially saw it as potentially redundant and not the best use of defence money. His successor, Mark Esper, has cast himself as a strong supporter of creating a Space Force and a command dedicated to space.

“To ensure the protection of America’s interests in space, we must apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do,” Mr Esper said on Wednesday.

“As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service,” he added.

Initially, the opening of Space Command will have little practical effect on how the military handles its space responsibilities. Air Force Space Command currently deals with more than three-quarters of the military space mission, and it is expected to only gradually hand those duties to the new command.

Air force General John “Jay” Raymond will serve as the first commander of Space Command. He currently heads Air Force Space Command.

PA

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