The prospect of a Space Force has been hazy since Trump first mentioned it, mostly because the proposal seemed to be a passing thought. “I was saying it the other day—’cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space—I said, maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said back in 2018, to an audience of Marines. “And I was not really serious. And then I said, what a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that.” The name called to mind images of space cadets pew-pew-pewing at enemies with plasma beams, and the suggestion became catnip for late-night-television hosts and the subject of an upcoming workplace sitcom from Steve Carell.

The reaction exasperated those in the national-security community who actually think some version of a Space Force is a good, and even long overdue, idea. “It does make sense that we’d be heading in that direction considering how much more space is meaning to our military operations now,” the space analyst Laura Seward Forczyk told me. Security experts are divided on how the United States’ space capabilities compare to other spacefaring nations like Russia and China, but they wouldn’t turn down increased emphasis on militarized space in some capacity.