Appropriators Fund Space Force, But Modestly

Appropriators Fund Space Force, But Modestly

The final version of the FY2020 defense appropriations bill was released by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees today.  The bill funds the new Space Force, a sixth military service that will be established after the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) becomes law.  The funding is modest, $40 million compared to the $72.4 million requested, but that is only for operations of the service itself, not programs.  Congress is concerned that Space Force will become another bureaucracy and is keeping a tight rein on its charter and spending. [UPDATE: The bill passed the House on December 17 and the Senate on December 19.]

The Defense Appropriations bill is packaged together with three others — Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), Financial Services, and Homeland Security — into the “national security minibus,” H.R. 1158.  The other eight FY2020 appropriations bills are combined into a “domestic priorities and international assistance” minibus, H.R. 1865.  Congress hopes to pass both bills by the end of the week when the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) expires.

In the past, it was common for all 12 regular appropriations bills to be collected into a single “omnibus” appropriations.  More recently, however, they have been packaged into smaller groups, hence the term “minibus.”

The total defense appropriations bill provides $693.3 billion for FY2020.  Of that, $40 million is for “operations and maintenance” of the Space Force, which will be part of the Air Force just as the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy.

Gen. John (Jay) Raymond

That money is above and beyond funding for national security space programs, about $14 billion for unclassified activities.  In fact, the Space Force is essentially a renaming of Air Force Space Command, which will cease to exist.  Its programs and activities thereupon will come under the command of the Chief of Space Operations — the head of the Space Force — who reports to the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF).  Gen. Jay Raymond is Commander of Air Force Space Command and will become Chief of Space Operations.  He also is commander of U.S. Space Command, a unified combatant command.

The Trump Administration requested $72.4 million for Space Force operations. The House Appropriations Committee provided $15 million when it approved the bill in May because of misgivings about a number of unanswered questions at the time.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the request.

The final version released today includes $40 million and requires the SecAF to provide a FY2020 spending plan, by month, no later than 30 days after the bill becomes law. It must include funding for civilian personnel, supplies and materials, and contract support. Congress must be notified of any changes to the plan in a quarter within 10 business days of the end of that quarter.

The bill also specifies that none of the funds may be used to transfer the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to the Space Force.  NRO designs, builds, and operates the nation’s spy satellites. It is staffed by Air Force and CIA personnel and most of its funding comes from the Intelligence Community (IC), not DOD.  As creation of a Space Force was being debated, then-Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and others advocated that NRO eventually be merged with Space Force even though President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-4 explicitly said it would not.  NRO’s congressional overseers want to make sure NRO stays where it is.

Congress is in the final steps of formally establishing the Space Force.  The FY2020 NDAA passed the House last week. It cleared a procedural step (cloture) in the Senate this afternoon and could pass tomorrow.

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