U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has defended his boss President Donald Trump’s plans to create a Space Force, insisting that he never opposed the idea despite advising Congress against it.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that the Pentagon was going to add a sixth branch to America's military in order to fulfill Trump’s wish to achieve U.S. dominance in space.
Mattis, who last year asked lawmakers to ditch all attempts to create a separate space service, told reporters on Sunday that he didn’t mean a space force was not necessary.
“I was not against setting up a Space Force,” he told reporters who accompanied him on a flight to Brazil to kick off his debut South America tour in his current position. “What I was against was rushing to do that before we could define the problem.”
This is while Mattis wrote in a letter to Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, last year that adding a separate space force “would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations.”
“I strongly urge Congress to reconsider the proposal of a separate service Space Corps,” Mattis wrote. “I believe it is premature at add additional organization and administrative tail to the department at a time I am trying to reduce overhead.”
The U.S. military presently consists of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Trump ordered in June that the space force should be “separate but equal” to the Air Force, which oversees most space capabilities.
Mattis said he has been discussing a space force with Trump and Pence since beginning of this administration.
“We’re in favor of war-fighting capability organized along the lines of what the president laid out,” the Pentagon chief said.
Critics, including Air Force Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, argue that adding a space branch to the military is pointless as it would drive up costs and increase bureaucracy.
Shortly after Pence’s announcement, Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan told reporters that the Pentagon had yet to determine the costs of establishing a space force and would submit a legislative proposal for it in the fiscal 2020 budget request.
Shanahan also defended Mattis’ reversal, saying his letter to lawmakers last year came at a time when “we had budget caps ... and we were going through significant belt-tightening exercises.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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