HASC Wants a U.S. Space Command Within USSTRATCOM – UPDATE

HASC Wants a U.S. Space Command Within USSTRATCOM – UPDATE

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will mark up the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday.  One of the proposals in the draft bill, H.R. 5515, is to create a U.S. Space Command within the U.S. Strategic Command, which also was proposed last year.  The bill has other provisions that underscore the committee’s concerns that the United States be ready and able to counter perceived Russian and Chinese threats to U.S. operations in space. [UPDATE, May 10: The committee approved the bill at 12:37 am this morning after more than 14 hours of debate.  The committee defeated by voice vote a Turner amendment to allow DOD to waive the U.S. Space Command requirement.]

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) released a summary of the draft bill on Friday that will serve as the text for debate and amendment.  HASC markups typically last for many hours, sometimes past midnight and into the next day.  The markup will be webcast on the committee’s website.

The summary of the chairman’s proposal (“mark”) has a section entitled “Space Warfighting” that highlights not only the threat the committee believes the United States is facing in space operations, but “the inability” of U.S. national security organizations to prepare for space to become a warfighting domain and adequately develop essential national security space systems.  It identifies four necessary “equally important elements:  acquisition reform, resources, cadre development, and joint warfighting.”

Therefore, as stated in summary of the chairman’s mark, the bill —

  • Directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative acquisition process for Space acquisitions.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop and implement a plan to increase the size and quality of the Space cadre within the Air Force.
  • Establishes a new numbered Air Force responsible for carrying out Space warfighting.
  • Establishes a sub-unified command for Space under the Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for Space as a warfighting domain.
  • Supports the President’s request for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, Protected Satellite Communications, and the Air Force’s Space launch efforts.

The summary does not spell out any further details.

The fourth bullet, to establish U.S. Space Command as a sub-unit of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), also was proposed by HASC last year, as part of a multi-pronged effort to reorganize how DOD and the Air Force implement space programs and operations.  HASC also wanted to create a Space Corps within the Air Force, analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy, last year.  Neither was included in the final version of the NDAA.  Instead, it required a study, which is underway, on how best to address these concerns.  Although the White House, DOD, and the Air Force opposed HASC’s Space Force idea last year, President Trump since has come out in favor it, but, as of now, that will wait until the study is completed.

A unified combatant U.S. Space Command was created in 1985, but was abolished 17 years later as part of the reorganization of U.S. unified combatant commands following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  The number of unified combatant commands was capped at 10 and with creation of a new U.S. Northern Command, one had to be deactivated.  U.S. Space Command was the one.

Its functions were merged into USSTRATCOM, which established a Joint Functional Component Command for Space.  That recently was restructured as the Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC) of USSTRATCOM, led by Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, who is dual-hatted as Commander of Air Force Space Command.  Whether JFSCC will continue to exist if a U.S. Space Command is created was not explained in the chairman’s summary of the bill.

Creating a U.S. Space Command under USSTRATCOM could be a step towards reestablishing it as a unified combatant command.  U.S. Cyber Command originated as a sub-unit of USSTRATCOM, but in 2017 was elevated to become a separate unified combatant command.

The chairman’s summary of the draft bill identifies several other key space-related provisions:

  • requires an enhanced quarterly readiness report that includes measures of cyber and space readiness;
  • requires combatant commanders to report readiness to fight an integrated battle using air, ground, sea, space and cyber forces;
  • adds $140 million to the request for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for development of directed energy and space sensing projects and the acceleration of hypersonics defense capabilities; and
  • requires the MDA Director to initiate development of a missile defense tracking and discrimination space sensor layer.



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