HASC Chairman: Committee Bill Will Include Smaller, Cheaper Space Force/Space Corps

HASC Chairman: Committee Bill Will Include Smaller, Cheaper Space Force/Space Corps

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith said today that agreement has been reached on the Space Force proposal. The language will be added to the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) during committee markup later this week.  It will not be the same as what the Pentagon proposed, however, and in any case the final details must be worked out in conference with the Senate.  One of those details is whether it will be a Space Force or Space Corps.

HASC Chairman Adam Smith at CSIS, June 10, 2019. Screengrab.

Smith (D-WA) gave a preview of Wednesday’s markup at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) this afternoon.

The draft text of the bill, called the “chairman’s mark,” does not say anything about a Space Force, or Space Corps as it was known when HASC first proposed the idea two years ago.

HASC called its concept Space Corps because it was part of the Department of the Air Force, the way the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy.

Smith explained that it took some time to reach agreement on the exact wording of what committee members want to say in this year’s bill and it was not ready in time to be included in the mark.  Instead it will be offered as an amendment.

We are going to have elements on Space Force, Space Corps.  We just didn’t have an agreement on it before the mark came out so we’ve got an amendment that’s going to have it.

My basic position is I think we need to put greater emphasis on space.  I think the proposal from the Administration is too expensive, has too much bureaucracy and moves personnel around in a way that can undermine some other agencies and services unnecessarily.  But yes, we should have a separate Space Corps or Space Force, that’s part of what we’re debating, and we’re going to have an amendment that puts that in our bill and we’ll  work out the details in conference. — HASC Chairman Adam Smith

HASC originated the concept of creating a separate unit within the Air Force to manage military space programs in its version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  It passed the House over White House and Pentagon objections, but the Senate did not agree. That was true in the FY2019 NDAA as well although a number of other organizational changes were adopted.

The idea has been on a circuitous route since then, with President Trump calling for an entirely new Department of the Space Force, not an entity within the Air Force, in June 2018.  After months of debate, the Administration finally sent a proposal to Congress on March 1, 2019 that retains the name Space Force, but is similar to HASC’s Space Corps in that it will remain part of the Air Force at least for now.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) agreed to creation of a Space Force as part of the Air Force when it marked up its version of the FY2020 NDAA in May, although it has many differences from the Administration’s proposal.  HASC’s decision has been anxiously awaited and it was surprising when neither the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces nor the full committee mentioned it in their draft texts of the bill.

The text of the amendment that will be offered on Wednesday has not been released yet. Whatever it says, the final details of what the new entity will look like will not be known until the House and Senate pass their bills and craft a final version during conference negotiations.

Getting the FY2020 NDAA passed on a bipartisan basis was Smith’s key message today.  The NDAA is one of the few bills that has been enacted every year for the past 58 years despite political ebbs and flows.  “The importance of [the bill] being bipartisan cannot be overstated. … We are not trying to score political points with this bill, we’re trying to produce the best possible product.”

He added that does not mean there are no differences between the parties.  Indeed, three key partisan issues that remain unresolved are the total amount of FY2020 defense spending (HASC Democrats have drawn the line at $733 billion, not the $750 billion requested), the future of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (HASC Democrats do not want any additional prisoners sent there), and low-yield nuclear weapons (HASC Democrats do not want them deployed on submarines).

But the most important issue, he said, is one HASC does not control — reaching agreement on budget caps. “Now we’re in the middle of June and we’re still not there yet. We need to fix that.”

HASC markups usually are lengthy events, beginning at 10:00 am and lasting until midnight or beyond.  Some are speculating that this one could keep going until dawn Thursday.  The markup is public and will be webcast on the committee’s website.

The current text of the bill, H.R. 2500, is posted on the House website.  It has a number of other provisions about national security space activities.  Four were highlighted in the committee’s press release:

  • Requires an independent study of deterrence in space to improve policies and capabilities to deter conflict in space.
  • Introduces opportunities for increased fair and open competition in launch.
  • Supports increasing resilience of US space architectures and capabilities, in particular precision, timing and navigation, and missile warning capabilities.
  • Facilitates establishment of a US Space Command, by removing requirement for a sub-unified command.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.