13 July 2017
WASHINGTON — There's one less hurdle for a new U.S. military branch focused on space after an amendment meant to derail it failed Wednesday to get approval from the House Rules Committee for a public floor debate.
The outcome was a loss for the White House, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other opponents who claim a new "Space Corps" equals more bureaucracy, but it was a win for lawmakers who warn the Air Force must be reorganized to catch up with China and Russia's militarization of space. Space has become critical for the U.S. military with satellites used for navigation, protected communications, missile warning, surveillance and intelligence collection.
Plans for the new Space Corps were
spearheaded by House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers,
R-Ala., and ranking member Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., with the support of
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. The
HASC voted 60-1 last month to approve the 2018 National Defense
Authorization Act, which contains the Space Corps legislative language.
The HASC-passed NDAA would direct the Defense Department to establish
a Space Corps by Jan. 1, 2019. The Space Corps would fall under the
Department of the Air Force but operate as an independent service,
similar to the Marine Corps' relationship to the Department of the
"The Armed Services Committee has not held any hearings on information about the Space Corps. There are no estimates of cost. The administration, the Department of Defense are opposed," Turner said. "While they work for increased readiness and refocus on modernization, restructuring the bureaucracy to the great extent of creating another service branch is extreme."
[DoD sends industry its cyber wish list]
"At a time when we are trying to integrate the Department's joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations vice an integrated one we're constructing under our current approach," Mattis wrote.
Rogers and Cooper testified together before the House Rules Committee on Wednesday to emphasize their proposal's bipartisan support and the dire need to prioritize space as its own domain.
Rogers argued the path ahead would actually be fairly deliberative. The Air Force would have six months after the bill's passage to create its own plan, teeing up further congressional action to move forward or reverse as necessary. Even sooner, there would be a series of classified and open hearings on the next steps, he said.
"We encourage you to come, particularly to the classified hearings to see our capabilities and our adversaries' — it is shocking what's happened," Rogers told the House Rules Committee. "Both China and Russia have already reorganized space."
Rogers argued the Air Force is resisting the move in part because its space accounts are a "money pot," which service leaders have raided for years to pay for air-domain needs.
"If we create a separate corps, the money goes to a separate corps, and that's why the fighter pilots [who are] general officers are opposed to it," Rogers said.
Although Turner acknowledged
the military has faced difficulties in executing space programs, he
argued that House lawmakers have not adequately laid out the
organization and functions of the Space Corps, or even how much
forming it would cost.
"Anything that separates space
and makes it unique and different, relative to all of the
war-fighting missions that we perform that are reliant on space, I
don't think believe that will move us in the right direction at this
time," Goldfein said.