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Sen. Bill Nelson is among the lawmakers opposed to the idea. "Space is, in his words, a war-fighting domain just like land and air and sea". The proposal would also need Congressional approval. "We must have American dominance in space". Pence said the administration will create a single civilian position reporting to the secretary of defense to oversee the growth and expansion of the new branch.

Currently, there is a 30,000-person, three-star space command that's under the jurisdiction of the Air Force, said ABC News.

Speaking at the Pentagon, he said: "Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space based systems and challenge American supremacy in space like never before".

The Pentagon's report, which was provided to Congress shortly before Pence's speech, also seeks to establish a new acquisition agency, the Space Development Agency, "charged with rapidly developing and fielding next-generation capabilities", not unlike the role the Missile Defense Agency plays in missile defense.

The new command and reorganisation "should be budget neutral", Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an interview. "The Space Force will protect our economy through deterrence of malicious activities, ensure our space systems meet national security requirements, and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces".

The Pentagon report included interim steps including creating a unified combatant command, known as the U.S. Space Command, by the end of 2018, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.

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Mattis had previously opposed the creation of a separate military branch focused on space, writing to Rep. Mike Turner of OH in July of 2017 that he did "not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations".

"By 1945, the American military had almost 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier", he said.

For years, some members of Congress and military leaders have been warning that space is no longer a peaceful sanctuary, but a war fighting domain that needs more attention and resources.

The Pentagon's role in space has been under scrutiny because of a recognition that the United States is increasingly reliant on satellites that are hard to protect in space. "So now, we have to adjust and make sure that we can defend what we do in space and deter anyone from challenging us there".

In 2007, China blew up a dead weather satellite with a missile, creating a massive debris cloud in orbit. "Both nations are also investing heavily in hypersonic missiles that are created to fly up to 5 miles per second and at such low altitudes that they could evade detection by our missile-defense radars".

The vice president insisted that the force, which the administration hopes to have in place by 2020, would "not be built from scratch", but draw from the men and women who are already running America's space programs.