National Defense University
Washington, D.C.

11:39 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. And thank you to Vice Admiral Roegge for your kind introduction and for your leadership here at this storied institution. Will you join me in thanking him one more time for his hospitality and his extraordinary leadership? (Applause.)

Members of the Cabinet, Congressman Babin, members of our armed forces, distinguished guests, and to the men and women of this storied institution dedicated to educating, developing, and inspiring America’s national security leaders: It is my honor and my privilege to be here at the National Defense University. (Applause.)

And it’s also my great honor to be here today for the fourth meeting of the National Space Council. Join me in thanking all the members of our Cabinet who have engaged so energetically in President Trump’s vision for renewed American leadership in space. Can I ask all of them to stand? All the members of the National Space Council, you have our thanks. (Applause.)

And to them, and to all of you, I bring greetings this morning from our Commander-in-Chief, and a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and a President who is committed to securing American leadership here on Earth and in the vast expanses of space. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

In his inaugural address, the President declared that America stands, in his words, “at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space.” And so we are. Since that day, our administration has worked tirelessly to extend our nation’s proud legacy of leadership in the heavens.

In just 16 months since relaunching the National Space Council, the President has signed three new space policy directives to rejuvenate our nation’s space enterprise and reignite the spark of urgency that propelled America to the vanguard of space exploration a half-century ago.

Under these new policies, NASA is preparing to send our astronauts back to the moon, and to build the capacity to put Americans on the red sands of Mars. We’re also modernizing out-of-date regulations to unleash America’s trailblazing commercial space industry. And we’re implementing a new space traffic management policy to protect our nation’s vital assets in the congested orbital environment.

But our Commander-in-Chief’s highest priority is the safety and security of the American people. And while the last administration too often failed to meet the growing security threats in space, President Trump has stated forcefully a truth that the leaders of the National Defense University have long understood: that space is “a warfighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea,” and America will be as dominant there as we are here on Earth. (Applause.)

To meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield, to prepare America’s best and bravest to deter and defeat a new generation of adversaries on that new horizon, we’re creating a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces.

In June, the President directed the Department of Defense to begin the process necessary to establish a United States Space Force. This is the next and natural evolution of our armed forces and it’s absolutely necessary to ensure American supremacy in space.

Since the dawn of the space age, the United States has recognized the vital importance of space to our national defense. Over the past 60 years, we have assembled the world’s largest and most sophisticated constellation of surveillance, navigation, and communications satellites that increase the agility, precision, and lethality of America’s armed forces.

Today, I am proud to report that there are tens of thousands of military personnel, civilians, and contractors operating and supporting our space systems — the eyes and the ears of America’s warfighters around the world.

These men and women serve with distinction across our defense and intelligence agency. And no organization has done more to advance American leadership in space than the United States Air Force. (Applause.)

As General Selva knows, the airmen who run our nation’s space programs are the best in the world. And since its earliest days as America’s newest branch of the service, the Air Force has faithfully served as the steward of our nation’s most vital assets orbiting the Earth as well.

But today, space is fundamentally different than it was a generation ago. What was once desolate and uncontested is increasingly crowded and confrontational. And today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and undermine our economic and military might as never before.

For many years, nations from Russia and China, to North Korea and Iran, have pursued weapons to jam, blind, and disable our navigation and communications satellites through electronic attacks from the ground.

But recently, our adversaries have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself. From anti-satellite weapons and airborne lasers, to highly threatening on-orbit activities and evasive hypersonic missiles, both China and Russia have been aggressively developing and deploying technologies that have transformed space into a warfighting domain.

Since taking office, our administration has taken decisive action to strengthen American power and secure our vital national interest in space.

President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including renewed resources to enhance the resilience of our space defense systems. And we are grateful for the support of the Congress of the United States in providing these resources for America’s defense. (Applause.)

Through the new Launch Service Agreement awards, we are also strengthening our partnerships with private industry to grow our domestic launch systems and accelerate the delivery of new space and counter-space capabilities.

And under the President’s new National Space Strategy, our administration is uniting America’s military, commercial, and civil space sectors as never before to ensure that the United States retains our rightful role as the world’s preeminent space-faring nation.

But as President Trump has said, quote, “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” And that’s exactly why, at President Trump’s direction, we are taking steps to establish the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of our military that is separate from, and equal to, the five other branches. (Applause.)

As the President and I believe, creating a Space Force is an idea whose time has come. As the men and women of the National Defense University know well, for decades, one independent study after another has called for reforms to the current organizational structure of our national space capabilities.

In 1994, the General Accounting Office published a report highlighting what they described as the “fragmented responsibilities” over our national security space programs. It was widely read but widely ignored.

In 2001, the Rumsfeld Commission concluded, in their words, that “the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community [are] not yet arranged or focused to meet the national security space needs of the 21st century.”

Seven years later, the Allard Commission arrived at the same conclusion, though its authors were more direct about it, bluntly stating, quote, “No one’s in charge” of America’s security in space.

And in of July 2016, the GAO published yet another report examining the dangerous fragmentation of responsibility over our national security space programs, which is spread across more than 60 different federal departments and agencies.

This lack of centralized leadership and accountability, we believe, poses a clear and present threat to our capacity to advance our national security in space. It undermines our combatant commanders’ ability to do their jobs. It puts our warfighters ultimately at risk as they operate on battlefields around the world. The American people will never accept this kind of vulnerability, and neither will we. (Applause.)

So as we will focus here today in this meeting of the National Space Council, I believe the time has come to stop studying the problem and start fixing it. And the United States Space Force, we believe, is central to the solution that America needs.

In August, the Defense Department released a substantive report identifying concrete steps that our administration can take, using existing authorities, to implement the guidance of our Commander-in-Chief to begin to make the Space Force a reality.

And for the past two and a half months, our national security leaders have been hard at work to begin standing up the United States Department of the Space Force.

I’d especially like to commend Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva, for their outstanding efforts implementing the President’s vision to stand up the Space Force. (Applause.) Thank you.

Today, the National Space Council will vote to send six strategic recommendations to the President’s desk, which will lay out our administration’s vision and a roadmap, ultimately, for establishing a Space Force.

First, we’ll create a new unified combatant command — the United States Space Command –- that will establish a dedicated chain of command for Space Force operations, ensure integration across the military, and develop the doctrine, tactics, and procedures of space warfighting in the 21st century.

Next, the Secretary of Defense will create a new joint organization –- the Space Development Agency –- that will break free from ineffective bureaucratic structures and provide the men and women of the Space Force the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities that they need, faster and more effectively.

In addition to delivering the space warfighting technologies of the future faster than our adversaries will be able to keep up, we also will ensure that our men and women in uniform can wield these capabilities unencumbered by bureaucracy.

And under the leadership of our Commander-in-Chief, we’ve already removed unnecessary restraints on our commanders and given them the rules of engagement they need to confront emerging threats on land, and sea, and in the air. And we will do the same in space. (Applause.)

Toward that end, the National Space Council will work with the National Security Council to conduct a comprehensive review of current and future space operational authorities to ensure that our warfighters have the freedom and flexibility they need to deter and defeat any threat to our security in the rapidly evolving battlefield of space.

Finally, and most importantly, our administration will work with leaders in Congress to create the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of our armed forces in the next National Defense Authorization Act.

Under our constitutional system, only Congress can formally establish a new department of the military. And our administration, I’m pleased to report, is already working closely with leaders in the Congress, in both parties, on both sides of the Capitol Building, to chart a legislative and budgetary pathway to create a new department that will organize, train, and equip space forces, including both combat and service support functions for offensive and defensive operations. Very soon, with the support of the Congress, the Department of the United States Space Force will be a reality. (Applause.)

I’m grateful to the leaders in the Congress for their engagement with us on this important initiative. And I especially want to thank Texas Congressman Brian Babin, who’s been a great champion of American leadership in space, who’s with us here today. And thank you, Congressman Babin, for your leadership on the United States Space Force. (Applause.)

Early next year, in the President’s budget, we’ll call on the Congress to marshal the resources to stand up the United States Space Force. And in the months that follow, we’ll work with congressional leaders to enact the statutory requirements in the NDAA to establish this new department by 2020.

The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of the Armed Forces of the United States, to turn the page to an evolution of our armed forces to meet the challenges and opportunities on that limitless frontier.

Our nation’s armed forces have always been at the vanguard of advancing American leadership beyond the bounds of Earth. Space Force will ensure a new era of American supremacy in space. But there is much work to do.

As the men and women of the National Defense University know well, when it comes to defending our nation and protecting our way of life, it is the cost of inaction that we can’t afford.

With every passing year, what we choose to do in space plays an ever-greater role in our security, our prosperity, and to no less extent, the very character and vitality of our nation.

Our activities beyond our atmosphere accelerate scientific and medical discoveries. They spur groundbreaking innovations; revolutionize how we communicate, travel, farm, and trade; launch new businesses and industries; and, quite literally, create the jobs of the future.

And while other nations increasingly possess the capabilities to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to the rule of law, and to peace through strength.

So as we continue to advance the prosperity of our people, expand the horizons of human knowledge, and carry our most cherished ideals into this new frontier, we will do this just as we have done through the long and storied history of this country. We will do it with a commitment to American strength and to freedom.

In our earliest days as a nation, when American merchant ships came under attack by the Barbary pirates and were forced to pay, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “an enormous tribute to the petty tyrant of Algiers,” we sent a squadron of our best Navy ships with names like Constellation, Enterprise, Constitution and Intrepid to protect our commerce and defend our citizens’ lives and liberty.

When America’s destiny beckoned us westward, and generations of pioneers, homesteaders, traders, and entrepreneurs went to carve out a home in the wilderness, we dispatched regiments of the United States Army — frontier regulars –- to explore new territories, protect vulnerable settlers, keep the peace, and help tame the Wild West.

In the wake of the Second World War, with communism on the march around the globe, we forward-deployed America’s naval forces to deter our adversaries, reassure our allies, and keep the sea lanes open for the free flow of commerce, and we made the skies safe for travel and trade by creating the fifth branch of the armed forces, the United States Air Force.

In our own day, in this still-new century, to ensure that we continue to have unfettered access to operate freely in space, to lead in space for the benefit of the American people and all mankind, we will lead once again, we will evolve our armed forces, and we will create the United States Space Force to meet that future. (Applause.)

As we take the first bold steps to strengthen our security, promote our prosperity, and advance American ideals in this infinite frontier, we’ll do so with American strength, with that same pioneering spirit, and we’ll do so — as Americans have throughout our generations — with the faith of the American people. That same faith that generations of Americans have claimed on behalf of all of those who have taken to the skies in defense of freedom in ages past.

We’ll have faith in the capacity — the capacity of our pioneers and risk-takers to lead without regard to their own personal safety. They’ll lead America into the infinite expanse of space. And our confidence will be in them, and in all of those that support them. And also, we’ll — we’ll also, I’m sure, breathe a word of prayer as those great pioneers go forward in this new endeavor of renewed American security in space, of renewed American exploration and leadership in space.

I know many Americans will claim that ancient promise that when we “rise on the wings of the dawn,” when we “settle on the far side of the sea,” even if we “go up to the heavens,” may there even His hand guide those who will lead us there, and even His hand will hold them fast.

With the efforts of the National Space Council, with the unwavering courage of America’s men and women in uniform, with the continued support and innovation of the American people and American industry, and with the vision and leadership of President Donald Trump, and with God’s help, I know we will give America the security she deserves. We will forge a new era of peace through strength in outer space. And America will lead for freedom in that infinite frontier once again.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless our armed forces. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you all for being here. (Applause.)

END

11:58 A.M. EDT