White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. Space Force “absolutely” has the Biden administration “full support,” a day after the president’s chief spokesperson provoked heavy backlash for seriously mocking the newest military service division.
“They absolutely have the full support of the Biden administration,” Psaki said Wednesday when asked again if Biden fully supports or will he try to “diminish” the Trump-era addition to the U.S. military. “We are not revisiting the decision to establish the Space Force.”
The press secretary noted that Congress not the White House would have to initiate the steps to dismantle the Space Force.
“Thousands of men and women proudly serve in the Space Force. As you know, it was established by Congress, and any other steps would actually have to be taken by Congress, not by the administration,” Psaki said.
Psaki claims that the new military service was the result from “bipartisan issue” that occurred “across multiple administrations” way before Trump was president.
“The desire for the Department of Defense to focus greater attention and resources on the growing security challenges in space has long been a bipartisan issue informed by numerous independent commissions and studies conducted across multiple administrations,” she said.
Psaki’s comments comes a day after she faced heavy backlash for her lack of knowledge of the sixth military branch of the United States Armed Force during Tuesday daily White House press briefing and dismissed a reporter inquire about whether President Biden’s future plan to keep the scope of Space Force.
“Wow! Space Force. It’s the plane of today,” Psaki quipped in response, mocking the entire branch of the military as insubstantial question by likening it to repeated softball inquires from reporters last month about whether Biden planned to change the color scheme of Air Force One.
“It is an interesting question. 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 we have any update on that,” she added.
Psaki’s dismissive tone prompted an immediate uproar from Republican lawmakers who accused her of downplaying the importance of a military command and demanded an apology from the press secretary for using the “military as the punchline of a joke.”
“It’s concerning to see the Biden administration’s press secretary blatantly diminish an entire branch of our military as the punchline of a joke, which I’m sure China would find funny,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) the top Republican on the House Armed Services told Politico.
“The Space Force was passed with near unanimous support in Congress, the same type of ‘unity’ President Biden is supposedly working towards,” Rogers added, calling on Psaki to “immediately apologize to the men and women of the Space Force for this disgraceful comment.”
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), a founding member of the House Space Force Caucus blasted Psaki’s remarks, saying it shows the Biden administration is not taking China as a “threat” seriously.
“While the Biden Administration continues to think about whether or not the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is a threat, China is working overtime to become the dominant force in space,” Waltz tweeted. “We need the professionals, the United States Space Force, to keep Americans safe.”
In response to the uproar without directly commenting on it or apologizing, Psaki tweeted late Tuesday night, “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.”
Psaki was asked whether she would apologize for mocking the Space Force after Republicans “demanded” she “circle back immediately” with an apology to its 16,000 members.
“I did send a tweet last night, you may not all be on Twitter, maybe they’re not on Twitter, that said we invite the members of Space Force here to provide an update to all of you on the important work they’re doing, and we certainly look forward to seeing continued updates from their team,” Psaki said, dodging to include any sort of apology in her remarks.
Space Force’s top general said Wednesday that he would take Psaki up on the invitation offer.
“I am very proud of the guardians in the Space Force,” Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations, said at a virtual event with defense writers. “I see the value of this force each and every day. I’m willing to talk to anyone about their great work and I’d welcome the opportunity.”
The creation of the Space Force was one of the many accomplishments of President Trump who first called for its creation in 2018 when he introduced his “new national strategy for space” during remarks to service members at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California. In 2019, Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 into law Friday that also created the Space Force.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see the Space Force as integral to ensuring the military puts enough focus on space to counter China and Russia. Both countries have stepped up anti-satellite missile tests in recent years.
Last year, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq as “fierce revenge” for the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. No Americans were killed thanks to what President Trump referred to at the time as an “early warning system” from the Space-Based Infrared System.
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe designated the Space Force as the 18th member of the intelligence community, in a move to “break down barriers” in information sharing as well as helping to inform the community’s analysis of threats in space.
The branch’s responsibilities includes “developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to our Combatant Commands.”