At today’s meeting of the National Space Council, President Trump directed the Pentagon and Defense Department to “immediately begin the process” of establishing a “space force” as a sixth branch of the military, “separate but equal” to the Air Force. He framed American “dominance” of outer space as a matter of national security meriting the creation of a new branch of the military, a stance seemingly at odds with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” Trump said.

There are currently five branches of the US Military:  the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Representatives in the House have previously attempted to create a “Space Corps” that would be a a new military service under the Department of the Air Force, much like the Coast Guard is part of the Department of the Navy. President Trump referred to a Space Force that would be “separate but equal” to the Air Force, which might indicate a more independent service. Space-related missions are currently handled by the Air Force.

President Trump’s statements today don’t immediately create a Space Force within the military. Congressional action will likely be needed to create the appointments and appropriations necessary to bring a new branch of the military into existence.

“I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces — that’s a big statement. We’re going to have the Air Force, and we’re going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal. It is going to be something, so important,” President Trump said.

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