Here's What The Space Force Will Do "It's not about putting military service members in space," one expert said. The new branch will basically reorganize what the military does in space and elevate it to a single chain of command.
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Trump Created The Space Force. Here's What It Will Actually Do

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Trump Created The Space Force. Here's What It Will Actually Do

Trump Created The Space Force. Here's What It Will Actually Do

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

When President Trump signed the defense spending bill on Friday, he created the Space Force. It's officially the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Services. NPR's Merrit Kennedy explains what it will actually do.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's called the Space Force.

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MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: President Trump said Friday that maintaining American military superiority in space is absolutely vital. The U.S. is leading, he said, but not by enough.

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TRUMP: Because space is the world's newest war-fighting domain.

KENNEDY: About 16,000 Air Force active-duty and civilian personnel are being assigned to the Space Force. There's still a lot to figure out, including the force's uniform logo and even its official song. Todd Harrison, who focuses on space security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says this change is long overdue. But first, here are a few things the Space Force will not do.

TODD HARRISON: It's not about putting, you know, military service members in space. It has nothing to do with NASA. It's not about protecting Earth from asteroids or aliens.

KENNEDY: He says the Space Force is basically going to repackage and elevate the missions that the U.S. military already has in space. Harrison says that for years, these responsibilities have been spread out between the Air Force, Army and Navy.

HARRISON: It will create a centralized, unified chain of command that is responsible for space because ultimately, when responsibility is fragmented, no one's responsible.

KENNEDY: He says military systems in space provide crucial information to the troops. GPS satellites help the military hit targets precisely. Satellites detect things like missile launches and gather intelligence. They're also used for communication and collect data on the weather.

Joan Johnson-Freese, a space security expert at the Naval War College, says this kind of information is crucial in warfare today.

JOAN JOHNSON-FREESE: Whoever has the best information and can get it the fastest wins, and space provides a lot of that information.

KENNEDY: She says Russia and China may be interested in interfering with that flow of information. And she adds that she's concerned about Trump's description of space as a war-fighting domain.

JOHNSON-FREESE: It's unnecessarily provocative.

KENNEDY: Johnson-Freese says that kind of language could lead other countries to boost their own military capabilities in space.

JOHNSON-FREESE: When the United States starts chest thumping, all that does is prompt others to do the same.

KENNEDY: Still, she says the Space Force has evolved a lot since the Trump administration first announced it. As she put it, a swaggering announcement turned into a rational implementation plan for something that needed to be done.

Merrit Kennedy, NPR News, Washington.

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