Nicholas Wu and Ledyard King USA TODAY Aug 20, 2019
Corrections and clarifications: The story has been updated to clarify that the U.S. Space Command will be launch August 29.
WASHINGTON – The Space Force is getting closer to launch.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the National Space Council, Vice President Mike Pence and Pentagon officials announced that a key step in creating the newest branch of the military would happen next week.
The U.S. Space Command officially starts Aug. 29, serving as the launching pad for the Space Force, they said. Air Force Gen. John Raymond has been tapped and confirmed by the Senate as its first leader.
“The United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, defend our interests, and to defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense for the vast reaches of outer space,” Pence said.
More: French President Emmanuel Macron announces creation of French space force
Establishment of the Space Force still requires congressional funding and authority, a step Pence said Tuesday would happen soon.
The Trump administration has cited potential threats from China and Russia as part of the reasoning behind creating a space force. Last month, France announced the creation of its own space force.
For years, Pentagon officials scoffed at the idea. The Air Force, which operates the Space Command, said creating a branch would be costly and disruptive.
But the concept has gradually won converts over the years, including President Donald Trump, who signed a directive in February creating the Space Force.
During a signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Trump said he views the new military branch as part of his responsibility to protect the nation.
“I was put here for security, whether it’s Space Force, which I’m doing today, or whether it’s borders,” the president said.
Eventually, an undersecretary of defense for space will be named, and the program – which would start as a division of the U.S. Air Force – would become the sixth armed service, joining the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Published 3:42 PM EDT Aug 20, 2019