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Pence outlines US Space Force plan for ‘next battlefield’

  • Vice President Mike Pence gestures as he speaks about the creation of a U. S. Space Force on Thursday at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Pointing to growing threats and competition from Russia and China, the White House on Thursday announced ambitious plans to create the U.S. Space Force as a sixth, separate military warfighting service by 2020.

The proposal taps into the American public’s long fascination with space — but with a military focus. The plan faces daunting hurdles and requires congressional approval. Military leaders and experts have questioned the wisdom of launching an expensive, bureaucratic new service branch.

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Vice President Mike Pence announced the new force during a Pentagon speech, fleshing out an idea that President Donald Trump has extolled in recent months as he vowed to ensure American dominance in space. Pence described space as a domain that was once peaceful and uncontested but has now become crowded and adversarial.

“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, to our nation,” Pence said.

Trump marked Pence’s announcement with a tweet: “Space Force all the way!”

Pence portrayed the change as a response to foes’ potential aggression rather than any offensive U.S. military effort.

Citing Russia and China, he said that for years U.S. adversaries have “pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communication satellites via electronic attacks from the ground.”

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“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,” he said.

In June, the president directed the Pentagon to create a “separate but equal” space force, a complicated and expensive move that could take years to gain Congress’ approval and become operational.