WASHINGTON — As the Defense Department begins work to establish a “Space Force,” top Air Force leaders are reassuring airmen that the process will take some time and that immediate, drastic changes will not occur, according to a June 19 memo distributed across the force.

“This work directed by the president will be a thorough, deliberate, and inclusive process,” stated the memo, which was signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff Dave Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright. It was originally posted on the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page before being obtained by Defense News and other outlets.

“As such, we should not expect any immediate moves or changes. Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy,” the letter continued.

On Monday, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to begin setting up a sixth branch of the military — a “Space Force” that would be “separate but equal” to the Air Force.

“When it comes to space, too often, for too many years, dreams of exploration and discovery were really squandered by politics and bureaucracy, and we knocked that out,” Trump said Monday at a meeting of the National Space Council, according to a White House pool report. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led. We’ve gone way far afield for decades now.”

The announcement was somewhat shocking. Although the Defense Department was slated to complete an interim report on whether to establish a space service earlier this month, Pentagon and Air Force leaders — including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Wilson and Goldfein — all had solidly opposed the idea.

During the time Congress was debating whether to create a “Space Corps,” Wilson and Goldfein stressed that moving space from the Air Force could impede the military’s ability to fight in space.

Moving Trump’s directive forward will require congressional action to change Title 10 of the U.S. Code. During the legislative process, lawmakers opposed to the new service could use previous comments by Mattis, Wilson and Goldfein to feed their own arguments.

In the June 19 memo, Wilson, Goldfein and Wright framed Trump’s proclamation as a continuation of Air Force talking points.

“President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position -- space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience, and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” the memo stated.

“We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”

Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.

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