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Mike Pence: US to create Space Force by 2020

As defence chief Mattis offers support, critics such as Bernie Sanders say US should instead focus on social welfare.

The US is planning to create The Space Force, a new branch of the US military, by 2020, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday.

It would become the US military's sixth branch, following the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.

"America will always seek peace in space, as on the Earth. But history proves that peace only comes through strength, and in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead," Pence said in an address to the Pentagon.

The new military branch will be responsible for a range of capabilities, including the US-made Global Position System (GPS) and technologies that guide and track missile launches.

US President Donald Trump announced the creation of the Space Force in March, when he called space "a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea".

In the months following that announcement, the Pentagon worked on interim steps toward the creation of the new military branch.

Although Pentagon leaders, including US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, once opposed the idea of a Space Force, they lined up on Thursday to offer their support.

"It is becoming a contested war fighting domain and we have to adapt to that reality," Mattis said.

Proponents of the plan claim a US Space Force is necessary because China and Russia, the US' biggest military rivals, both have a dedicated military branch focused on space.

China's space programme is run by the military.

Russia's space forces control important radar and missile sites and have partial responsibility for locations from which rockets are launched into space.

However, critics say the new military branch will compete with the current objectives of the Air Force and increase bureaucracy.

Senator Brian Schatz, member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, called the creation of the Space Force "a dumb idea" on Twitter.

Senator Bernie Sanders said the US should focus on investing in healthcare, education and the environment instead of "spending billions and billions of dollars" on weapons.

The Space Force will be part of President Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.

His team sent an email following the announcement on Thursday asking supporters to vote for their favourite Space Force logo.

Following the announcement, several Twitter users made their own logos to make fun of the creation of the new military branch.

In July, Bloomberg Businessweek asked eight leading designers to create a logo and received some ironic responses.

Milton Glaser's design was a silhouette of Trump's profile with the word space, in capital letters, between the ears.

"The image represents the relentless intrusion of our president in every aspect of our lives and future. The image can be read as his next conquest or simply that there is very little inside that skull," he told the magazine.

The United States is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bars the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space and only allows for the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes.

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