Space Force will be a Marines-like branch under Air Force authority

President Trump is expected to sign into creation the Space Force today, as a special branch of the military overseen by the Air Force Department, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The president’s decision is considered a win for the Air Force and Defense Department broadly, which had argued against setting up an independent military department based on their concerns that it would add new layers of bureaucracy, according to the Pentagon.

Speaking at an event at The Brookings Institute, Air Force chief of staff Gen. David L. Goldfein discussed the decision-making process around the creation of the Space Force — saying that Defense Department officials had discussed a range of options, from creating an entire department to establishing a smaller, professional core of personnel, like the Army’s Medical Corps.

With the decision, the Trump Administration is likely to establish a service that looks more like the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy but unique within it, than an entirely new branch of the military. The Space Force will be led by a four-star general who will have a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it will not have a secretary-level post, according to the Post report.

Perhaps more significantly, the Trump administration is reviving the U.S. Space Command, which will be headed by a four-star officer and will coordinate military operations in space.

These days, those operations consist of communications, surveillance and satellite defense, but as plans continue to set up more permanent bases on the Moon and eventually Mars, these efforts could expand to protect personnel as well.

The U.S. disestablished the Space Command in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration. Created in 1985 during the Reagan administration’s second term, when the “Star Wars” missile defense program was in full swing, the Space Command was tasked with defining strategic objectives for the U.S. in space, and executing them.

When President Trump announced the new Space Command in December, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said that the surge in threats to America’s space program warranted the resurrection of the program.

“We are shifting to a war fighting culture at the explicit recognition that it is a war fighting domain,” Wilson was quoted by Space News as saying at the time. “Adversaries are developing capabilities to deny us the use of space in crisis or war. The creation of a unified command puts focus on the ability to protect our assets on orbit and prevail if called upon.”