THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release October 23, 2018
INTERVIEW OF VICE PRESIDENT PENCE
BY ROBERT COSTA AT THE WASHINGTON POST’S
SPACE SUMMIT “TRANSFORMERS: SPACE”
Washington Post Live Center
10:11 A.M. EDT
Q Mr. Vice President, it’s a pleasure to have you here at the Washington Post
for our space summit. We really appreciate you taking the time —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Bob.
Q — from the campaign trail, just a few weeks before the midterm elections, to
talk about space, to talk about what’s next with Space Force.
But before we get into that, I have so many questions on Space Force; I know
everyone is so interested in that. I wanted to get your — to talk just for a
couple minutes about Jamal Khashoggi, our colleague here at the Washington Post.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Well, thank you, Bob. Thank you for hosting this
forum on a topic of great importance to the life of the nation and to American
leadership. But thank you also for giving me the opportunity to address the
tragic murder of your colleague Jamal Khashoggi.
The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey was a
tragedy for his family, for his loved ones, and for your colleagues here at the
Washington Post. It was also an assault on a free and independent press. And our
administration is determined to use all means at our disposal to get to the
bottom of it.
President Trump has already expressed his concern that there have been lies,
there’s been deception. He dispatched the Secretary of State to the region early
on. And the Director of the CIA is there, in Turkey now, reviewing the evidence.
And we’re going to follow the facts. We’re going to demand that those
responsible are held accountable. And once we have all the facts, President
Trump will make the decision based upon the values of the American people and
our vital national interests.
But allow me to express my personal sympathies to his fiancée, to his loved
ones, his family, and to all the colleagues here at the Washington Post who
admired and cherished the life and example of Jamal Khashoggi.
Q What’s your response, Mr. Vice President, to President Erdogan’s report this
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the word from President Erdogan this morning that this
brutal murder was premeditated, preplanned days in advance, flies in the face of
earlier assertions that have been made by the Saudi regime. And again, it
underscores the determination of our administration to find out what happened
here. The world is watching. The American people want answers. And we’ll demand
that those answers are forthcoming.
We’ll also — as we go forward, as we demand that those who are responsible are
held accountable for this barbaric act, we will also do so in the light and in
the context of America’s vital national interests in the region. Our
relationship with Saudi Arabia goes back some 60 years, since shortly after
World War II. It represents an enormously important alliance in the region. And
particularly under President Trump’s leadership, we’ve forged renewed ties with
Saudi Arabia and with other countries across the Middle East to confront the
leading state sponsor of terrorism in Iran.
And so we’ll look for ways to hold those accountable that are accountable. We’ll
make sure that the world has the facts, that the American people have the facts
about what happened here. And but we’ll also do so in the context of our vital
national interests and the important and more than half-century-long
relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which is truly, truly
essential to our nation’s security and prosperity.
Q Speaking of holding those accountable, have you seen any intelligence linking
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to this crime?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t want to speak about any intelligence that I’ve
seen, Bob, as appropriate. I know that when the CIA Director returns, she’ll be
briefing the President, myself, and our entire team on what the Turks have
assembled. But look, I want to assure all of your colleagues here, I want to
assure the American people: We’re going to get to the bottom of it. This brutal
murder of a journalist, of an innocent man, of a dissident, will not go without
an American response and, I expect, without an international response.
But we want to find out what happened. And President Trump has made it very
clear that the full resources of our intelligence community, working with
intelligence officials in Turkey, in our interactions with Saudi Arabia, and
also with other countries around the world is going to follow the facts, and
then decisions will be made.
Q Final question on this; then we’ll turn to Space Force: Does that mean you’re
open to sanctions on the Saudi royal family?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, whether or not there are sanctions imposed, whether
there’s other actions taken will be a decision for the President of the United
States. And what President Trump has made it clear, Bob, is that we want to know
what happened. We’re going to follow the facts. We’re going to get all of the
evidence. And then the President will make a decision that reflects the values
and the interests of the American people.
We’ll do what’s best for the American people. We’ll also make sure that the
world knows the truth of what happened. And that’s a promise to the family of
Jamal Khashoggi, a promise to all of those who worked with him here at the
Washington Post, all who cherish his example around the world.
Q Turning to Space Force, big question is, what will Space Force do?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me commend the Washington Post for bringing
attention unto this issue. Along the campaign trail in 2016, shortly after I was
added to the ticket, the President and I had a conversation about his interests
in really reviving American leadership in space, and particularly when it came
to human space exploration.
He told me then that he wanted to relaunch what’s known as the National Space
Council, which had lain dormant for some 25 years. And he asked if I’d be
interested in chairing it, as previous vice presidents had done in American
history. To be honest with you, Bob, I jumped at the chance. When I was elected
to the Congress, when we first met, the one committee that I requested to be a
part of was the NASA Subcommittee of the Science Committee because I have been a
space enthusiast all my life. And it turns out the President of the United
States shares that same passion.
And we both shared a concern that while America continues to be dominant in
space, in terms of technology, in terms of our accomplishments, that we were
losing momentum in recent years; that America had essentially been consigned to
low-Earth orbit. We’d actually off-lined our own platforms when we grounded the
Many Americans didn’t even realize at the time that we’ve had to pay the
Russians to fly American astronauts into space now for a number of years. Some
$80 million a seat on Russian spacecraft.
But the President saw all of that as intolerable. And not just the fact that
we’d become focused on low-Earth orbit but that we’d really lost a vision for
leading mankind into the outer reaches of space. In his inaugural address, he
spoke about that. He spoke about American leadership in the vast expanse of
space. And shortly after the advent of the administration, we relaunched the
National Space Council.
And while its initial work focused on reviving NASA, bringing about the kind of
changes through a series of presidential policy directives that have cleared
away regulatory barriers to space launch by private industry, and also made a
recommitment to NASA’s civilian mission.
Along the way, it became very clear to us that it’s absolutely essential that
America remained as dominant in space, from a national security perspective, as
we are on the Earth. And that’s where the President conceived of the idea of a
Space Force and tasked the National Space Council to begin to examine how that
might best be formatted.
It would be in June of this year, at the last meeting of the National Space
Council, that the President directed the Pentagon to formulate a plan. They have
done so, submitted that plan in August, on the very day after I addressed the
Today, later at the War College, we’ll be laying out a series of recommended
policy directives for the President to put into effect what will ultimately
result in the launch of a sixth branch of the our armed forces: the United
States Space Force. And the purpose of the Space Force will be to secure our
vital national interests in space.
Q Does that mean adding weapons to space?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what it means, Bob, is that we’re going to protect
American interests in space. I mean, to understand American defense today is to
understand the interrelationship between our satellite technology and our
aircraft, our ships at sea, submarines under the sea. Our warfighters on the
ground regularly rely on information that is obtained, images that are captured,
by satellite technology.
And so the first order of business is ensuring that the infrastructure of our
satellite technology is protected. And the reality is, the more we look at our
competitors in space — chiefly among them are China and Russia — we see the
deployment of technologies by both of those countries — anti-satellite
China, not long ago, actually tested a missile that took out one of their own
satellites. We’re seeing the deployment of additional, new anti-satellite
technology that’s placed into orbit, literally satellites that are able to move
in proximity to existing satellites. All of this informs the fact that we have
to have the capacity to protect our existing infrastructure in space.
But also, what the President’s vision is, is that we stand up a Space Force that
very much — similar to the way that the Air Force was launched after World War
II — will evolve into ensuring that America remains as dominant in outer space
militarily as we are here on Earth. And that will be the project of the Space
Force going forward. And there are a number of steps that will be launched in
the very short term but that will ultimately lead to the launch of a Department
of the United States Space Force in the next national Defense Authorization Act.
Q What about the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which governs international space law?
It bans weapons of mass destruction in space.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It does.
Q President Trump, as we know, likes to cut his own deals. Is this
administration thinking about renegotiating that treaty?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well — well, first and foremost, that treaty — which I
think we signed in 1967 — does ban weapons of mass destruction in outer space
but it doesn’t ban military activity. It actually is a — it gives nations a
fair amount of flexibility in operating for their security interests in outer
space. And at this time, we don’t see any need to amend the treaty.
But, you know, as time goes forward, the hope that we could continue to see
outer space as a domain where peace will reign, it will require military
presence. But we’ll continue to aspire to President Kennedy’s vision of a “sea
of peace” as opposed to a terrifying domain of war.
Q On that, do you think that nuclear weapons should be banned from space?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they are now.
Q Should they always be banned from space?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I think that what we need to do is make sure
that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of
America. And that’s the President’s determination here.
I think it’s in the interest of every nation to continue to ban the use of
nuclear weapons in space. But what we want to do is continue to advance the
principle that peace comes through strength. And we truly do believe the best
pathway toward advancing human exploration in space — which the President has
already announced we’re going back to the moon and then, after that, to Mars —
the way we develop more commercial enterprise in space, and we see the
I visited the Mojave Desert and I saw a number of companies that are operating,
even as we speak, to be able to carry commercial enterprises, space tourism,
space mining —
Q What’s our deadline to go back to the moon?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re working through that right now. And Jim
Bridenstine, being a part of this program today, I’m sure spoke to that with
great specificity. But, you know, I serve with a President that wants everything
yesterday. And I can assure you that our determination is to see Americans back
on the moon in the very near future, but shortly thereafter on our way to Mars.
And not in an event horizon of 10, and 20, and 30 years, which is the way NASA
spoke for much of the last two decades, but also an event horizon that says
we’re going to get there — we’re going to get there soon, we’re going to get
And you know, once Americans set their mind to something there’s — we’ve
already demonstrated throughout our history there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
Q Do you worry at all about an arms race? You mentioned Russia and China with
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, let’s be very clear: There’s this whole talk
about militarizing space, and what the American people deserve to know is that
from the time Sputnik was launched into orbit, we’ve militarized space. That, in
a very real sense, space is a warfighting domain. And whether it’s China,
Russia, other nations in the world, there are security investments being made,
not just satellite technology, but also that anti-satellite technology that I
And we really do believe that it’s absolutely essential that we meet that moment
with American strength, that we meet that moment with American leadership, and
that we also recognize that, in 2015, China essentially stood up its own space
force. Russia, in the very same year, assigned a part of its aerospace division
to a space force.
And so what President Trump has initiated here, in a very real sense — while
America continues to lead in technology and innovation, and in military strength
— in terms of organizational structure, this is what our competitors are
already doing. And the President is determined to make sure that America leads
in space, as well, from a military standpoint.
Q Who goes to the moon or to Mars in the — for the United States moving
forward? Is it people from NASA astronauts, or is it people like your son, a
naval aviator who may want to go to space?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what I can say is that — and thanks for mentioning my
Q Michael Pence, First Lieutenant?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: First Lieutenant. Just got his wings as a Marine naval
aviator two weeks ago. And we couldn’t be more proud. But thank you. Thank you
for that. (Applause.)
Look — look, human space exploration is a civilian operation by NASA; that’s
what we want it to be. Obviously, as I said at the Pentagon back in August, a
great number of our astronauts have also, in their prior lives, worn the uniform
of the United States. And we’re proud of their service then.
But human space exploration is at the very center of what President Trump wants
to see us accomplish. Making sure that we have the security in space to advance
human space exploration is the underpinning of the Space Force, protecting our
interest on Earth, protecting — providing for the common defense here for the
American people and our interests around the world, but also creating a domain
where we can lead mankind into the outer reaches of space.
But that will be a civilian effort. It will be American boots back on the moon.
I look forward to seeing that day, and to seeing Americans land on Mars.
Q Your tone here, Mr. Vice President, is very measured. You’re talking about
Space Force as a national project. But President Trump is talking a lot about it
on the campaign trail. It’s a talking point at his political rallies. Does that
risk making Space Force something that has a partisan sheen?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, no. I actually think there’s broad bipartisan support
for a Space Force. In fact, in the last national defense bill, there was
language for what would be called the “Space Corps,” that had broad bipartisan
support. This is actually an issue, Bob, that Republicans and Democrats have
spoken about for some time. But President Trump has essentially seized on it.
And as he does with so many other issues, he’s been able to communicate that in
a way that’s captured the imagination of the American people. And I can tell
you, as I’ve traveled around to campaign during these midterm elections as well,
there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Space Force.
And I actually don’t think it’s so much partisan as it’s just — I think there’s
many Americans, you know, my age and older, who remember those glory days of the
1960s. I remember huddled around a little black and white television in our
basement watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon — “one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.” And the pride that I felt as an American.
And when I became a member of Congress, I actually attended three different
shuttle launches. And it was the most incredible thing I ever witnessed in my
life to see so much power contained, lifting those brave Americans into space.
But I think millions of Americans, whatever their politics, would agree that
somewhere along the way we lost our vision and our passion for leadership in
space. And the President’s call for a renewal of our commitment to human space
exploration, a return to the moon, reaching out at Mars, the establishment of a
Space Force, I think that taps into that American aspiration that we are in a
very real sense, a nation of pioneers. We’ve always, throughout our history been
pushing the outer envelope. We’ve been pushing into the undiscovered country. I
think the American people are excited to see us do that again.
Q Mr. Vice President, though, you’re selling it hard.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I am.
Q But does Congress agree with you? Congress has to authorize this.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Do we expect the Trump administration to making — getting an authorization
vote on Space Force a priority by the end of 2019?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The short answer to that is yes. The President has made it
very clear in the next National Defense Authorization Act that he wants language
that authorizes the establishment of the United States Space Force and a
department as a sixth branch of the service.
But we’re taking steps even before that. As we’ll announce today when I go over
to the War College, the National Space Council is making recommendations to the
President to essentially begin with establishing a unified Space Command, much
in the way that we established a special forces command.
We all remember the Iran hostage crisis during the Carter administration, and
the disaster in the desert that took place. Shortly after that was when the
United States made the decision to establish a unified special forces command.
So now, special forces in all different branches of the service operate under a
unified command so that when special forces are deployed, it’s fully
And what the President has envisioned here is let’s begin by bringing everyone
under a unified command. Let’s stand up a space development agency so we can
establish the authorities necessary, the chain of command; promote the
I mean, we roughly have about 60,000 people in all the different branches of the
service and our intelligence community who work in and around space security
today. We haven’t been neglectful of this; we just haven’t brought it all
together in one place. And that’s what the President purposes to do with the
United States Space Force and the department that will establish it.
But going to the Congress, asking for the Congress for that authorizing
legislation is something the President has made it clear is a priority. And
we’ll be working when we reelect these Republican majorities on Capitol Hill,
we’ll be reelecting — working with reelected Republican majorities to do just
Q One final thing on the Space Force, and then I want to talk for a minute about
the midterms. When you think about — you mentioned your time in the U.S. House;
you were a firebrand conservative back then in the House challenging leadership.
I covered that. But they care about spending billions of dollars, and an Air
Force memo shows that Space Force may need $3 billion in its first year, $13
billion in its first five years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q You know, that’s a hard sell. One, do you agree with — is that really the
numbers we’re expecting for Space Force? That Air Force memo from a couple
months ago. And, two, will House conservatives, and other conservatives in
Congress, really want to sign on to something that’s that big a spending
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we think the numbers — I know that the Secretary of
the Air Force has produced some of those numbers — and great, great respect for
Secretary Wilson. But I would just ask my old colleagues in the Congress: What
price freedom? What is the price tag that you place on the security of the
United States of America?
And two, I think the reason why the American people are so enthusiastic about
Space Force is because they understand that for us to continue to provide for
the common defense, to protect America’s interest, to stand for freedom in the
world, that we have to continue to extend American strength into the outer
reaches of space.
Now, the good news is an awful lot of what of we’re going to do is going to be
consolidating. As I mentioned, there’s roughly 60,000 people today that work in
space security in a variety of different agencies. And so this will not be — it
will not, in the first instance, look like other branches of the service that
were stood up. It will be a consolidation, we believe, and from there future
congresses and future administrations can grow and expand and nurture the
Department of the Space Force as they see fit.
Q We’ll be following the National Space Council closely. Just to finish on the
midterms — you’re going to be heading out on the campaign trail soon.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I am.
Q Immigration has become a major issue. The President keeps talking about this
migrant caravan, and he references Middle Easterners that are part of this
caravan without evidence. Why is that? And where is the evidence, if any?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle
Eastern decent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The truth is — well, let me — let me — there’s statistics
on this. I mean, in the last fiscal year, we apprehended more than 10
terrorists, or suspected terrorists, per day, at our southern border, from
countries that are referred to in the lexicon as “other than Mexico.” That means
from the Middle East region.
I mean, the idea that they would not be in this large throng that what the
President of Honduras told me was organized by leftist groups in Honduras,
financed by Venezuela, and sent north to challenge our sovereignty, and
challenge our border. And now it’s grown.
The President had me reach out to President Hernández in Honduras, to President
Morales in Guatemala. We’ve been working very closely with Mexico. We’re going
to do everything in our power to prevent this caravan from coming north and
violating our border.
But, ultimately, it is an issue in this election, because what human traffickers
are doing, what criminal gang members are doing in this instance and, frankly,
in literally every day of the week — where they take cash to bring people up
the peninsula in the hopes of them either making a claim for asylum, or simply
crossing our border illegally to be apprehended — is they’re taking advantage
of not only our porous border, but loopholes in our laws — our
catch-and-release program — are all used and exploited by human traffickers who
have no regard for human life.
You know, when I spoke to the President of Guatemala he told me how at that
point they were already beginning to bus some people back to Honduras —
elderly, vulnerable children who had simply been left by the side of the road by
the organizers of this caravan.
I mean, the truth of the matter is, nearly 42 — far beyond this caravan —
nearly 40 percent of young girls that make their way into our country at the
hands of human traffickers are sexually abused. We determined they’ve been
sexually abused on their way north. This is a — it is unconscionable for us to
continue to allow this to occur. And we — but the way we can end it, as the
President has made clear, is to have a Congress that is willing to not only fund
a wall, secure our border, but to close the loopholes that human traffickers and
violent gang members use to entice people to make the long and dangerous journey
up the peninsula.
We really do believe that we’ve got a crisis at our southern border, but the
only way we’re going to deal with that crisis in the long term is by bringing
about changes in the law. And the American people have a very clear choice to
make. The Democratic Party today supports catch and release. They have opposed
the wall, they have opposed efforts for additional internal enforcement and the
kind of reforms that, frankly, we’ve been talking about for more than a decade.
The Republican Party is committed to building a wall, committed to closing the
loopholes, ending catch and release, reforming a broken immigration system. And
it’s very much — very much an issue on the minds of people everywhere I go
across the country.
Q Vice President Pence, we’ve gone way over time. I appreciate you coming to the
Washington Post today to discuss Space Force and other issues. Thank you so
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Bob. Great to be with you. (Applause.) Thank you.
END 10:40 A.M. EDT