The White House does not appear to be certain on how it will implement a new Space Force, President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated sixth branch of the military, and is still mulling the possibility of operating it under the wings of the Air Force, according to memos reviewed by Defense One.

As recently as Oct. 26, the White House reportedly asked the Pentagon for its expertise in the “organizational construct to meet [the President’s] intent” and asked for alternative recommendations for the Space Force’s structure — despite Trump touting it as an independent military branch in numerous statements and campaign speeches.

In the memo, White House officials solicited advice on whether the U.S. military was “best served” if the Space Force remained separate from the other military branches.

The memo also cast doubt on Trump’s numerous claims about the Space Force being completely independent by asking if “the new Space Force would be most effectively organized as a separate service within the Department of the Air Force,” according to Defense One.

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order he signed June 18, during a meeting of the National Space Council, to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump holds up an executive order he signed June 18, during a meeting of the National Space Council, to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force; separate but equal,” Trump said at a National Space Council meeting in June.

Defense officials have reportedly come up with several plans on how to implement a "distinct branch of the Armed Forces for Space."

These plans range from a space-focused corps under the Air Force’s purview, to an independent Space Force that includes Air Force, Army, Navy and intelligence community assets, according to a defense official cited in the report.

The possibility of creating a separate Space Corps under the Air Force — similar to how the Marine Corps and Navy operate, with one secretary overseeing both services — was previously proposed by Congress as part of its annual defense policy bill. The provision in the National Defense Authorization Act was later shot down in 2017 and 2018 — a result the White House has taken into account in asking the Pentagon for suggestions, military officials told Defense One.

The memo reportedly did not explicitly mention a Space Corps.

The question of establishing an autonomous Space Force has divided many in the Defense Department and White House. While military experts generally agree that adversaries like China and Russia pose a threat to the U.S. in space, not all are convinced that an independent military branch devoted to space is the way to go. Some point to the potential cost of an independent Space Force.

SpaceX launches a Falcon-9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in September 2013. (Airman Yvonne Morales/Air Force)
SpaceX launches a Falcon-9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in September 2013. (Airman Yvonne Morales/Air Force)

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