President Donald Trump celebrated on Friday, Dec. 20, the launch of Space Force, the first new military service in more than 70 years.

In signing the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that includes Space Force, the president asserted a victory for one of his top national security priorities.

“Space is the world’s new war-fighting domain,” Trump said Friday during a signing ceremony at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington. “Among grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, and very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot.”

Largest Defense Bill

The president tweeted then, “Last night I was so proud to have signed the largest Defense Bill ever. The very vital Space Force was created.”

“New planes, ships, missiles, rockets and equipment of every kind, and all made right here in the USA. Additionally, we got Border Wall (being built) funding. Nice!” he added.

It is part of a $1.4 trillion government spending package that offers a steady stream of funding for U.S.- Mexico border fence and reverses automatic spending cuts on defense and domestic programs.

In addition, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, “Our reliance on space-based capabilities has grown dramatically, and today outer space has evolved into a warfighting domain of its own.” Maintaining dominance in space, he said, will now be Space Force’s mission.

The important role of the Space Force

For the U.S. economy and everyday life, space has become increasingly important. For example, the Global Positioning System provides navigation services for both the military and civilians. The 50th Space Wing manages its constellation of about two-dozen orbiting satellites from an operations center in Colorado’s Schriever Air Force Base.

Besides, the Pentagon reported in a study last February that China and Russia have embarked on major efforts to develop technologies. That could enable them in a crisis or conflict to disable or kill American and allied satellites.

“The United States faces serious and growing challenges to its freedom to operate in space,” the report said.

President Donald Trump after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Dec. 20, 2019, before traveling to Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach, Fla. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

Earlier, President Trump spoke of the military space program as part of a broader goal of achieving American space superiority. He officially ordered the Pentagon in June 2018 to begin working toward a space army.

Moreover, Vice President Mike Pence has touted Space Force as “the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces.” And Esper earlier this week called this an “epic moment” in recent American military history.

Doubts of effectiveness

Kaitlyn Johnson, an expert on space policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, sees the development of the Space Force as an important move, although she doubts that its effectiveness.

Johnson says the reluctance of Democrats to make Space Force a separate branch of the military means that if a Democrat wins the White House next November, it could be curtailed or even disbanded.

“I think that’s a legitimate concern” for Space Force advocates, she said. “Just because it’s written into law doesn’t mean it can’t be unwritten.”

“Because of the politics that have started to surround the Space Force, I worry that that could damage its impact before it even has time to sort itself out” within the wider military bureaucracy.

Includes reporting from the Associated Press