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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden will not seek to eliminate the Space Force and roll military space functions back into the Air Force, the White House confirmed Wednesday.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during a Feb. 3 briefing that the new service has the “full support” of the Biden administration.
“We’re not revisiting the decision,” she said.
The U.S. Space Force has been a notorious and controversial presence in U.S. politics since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump took on the new military branch as a pet project.
Although the idea of a separate service for space originated in Congress and developed bipartisan support, Trump’s involvement in its establishment — which included his campaign selling Space Force-branded merchandise and recommending that his wife, Melania Trump, design the uniforms — made it a pop culture punching bag, as exemplified by the Netflix comedy series “Space Force.”
Psaki was asked during a Tuesday press briefing whether the Biden administration would ultimately seek to abolish the new space service, which was formally signed into law in December 2019.
“Wow, Space Force. It’s the plane of today,” she said, referencing previous questions about the Air Force One’s paint job.
“It is an interesting question,” she added. “I am happy to check with our Space Force point of contact. I’m not sure who that is. I will find out and see if they have any update on that.”
Psaki’s response raised the ire of Republicans, including House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who criticized it as being disrespectful to members of the service and demanded an apology.
Later that night, Psaki tweeted that the Biden administration would continue working with the Space Force, but did not outright confirm that officials would continue to support the new service.
“We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work,” she tweeted.
We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 3, 2021
On Wednesday, Rogers told Defense News he hadn’t had any underlying concerns about the branch’s future because the incoming administration had signaled its support. However, he remained displeased Psaki hadn’t apologized and at her unfamiliarity with the branch and its creation by Congress, where it enjoys “very bipartisan support,” Rogers added.
“It’s a very serious branch taking on a very serious national security threat, so her ignorance on the topic disturbed me, and then her flippant attitude disturbed me. But what more disturbed me was, today, after she had been informed that it was a serious branch of the military dealing with a serious threat, she couldn’t bring herself to say: ‘I made a mistake,’ ” Rogers said. “I was glad to see her acknowledge what I already knew, and the administration has said before — that is, they’re fully supportive of the Space Force and [know] its worth.”
Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond told reporters during a Wednesday morning roundtable that he would “welcome the opportunity” to speak to the Biden administration about the ongoing work of the Space Force, which includes tracking debris in space, running the nation’s GPS constellation, and managing satellites that provide communications links and help identify ballistic missiles.
“I’m very proud of the guardians in the Space Force,” he said.” I see the value of this force each and every day, and I’m happy to talk to anybody about the great work [it’s doing].”
For those who have been closely watching the universe of military space, the news of Biden’s support for the Space Force will come as little surprise.
Space experts — including Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies as well as Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation — told Defense News in January that the Biden administration will likely retain the Space Force.
“At this point we have spent thousands and thousands of hours and years of effort to create this new bureaucracy in the hope that it will address these challenges,” Weeden said. “At this point, we have no choice but to see that through. To now go back and spend even more time undoing all this stuff would be even worse.”
Joe Gould of Defense News and Nathan Strout of C4ISRNET contributed to this report.