House Will Not Debate Amendment to Prohibit Space Corps Funding

House Will Not Debate Amendment to Prohibit Space Corps Funding

The House Rules Committee did not approve for floor debate an amendment that would prohibit money from being spent on creating a Space Corps within the Air Force.  The House is debating an appropriations measure that includes FY2018 funding for DOD and the Rules Committee decides what amendments may be offered.  The Space Corps amendment, proposed by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), was not included in the list released today.

The House passed the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on July 14.  It would create a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  Its advocates include the bipartisan leadership of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Strategic Forces subcommittee, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN) as well as HASC chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX).  It is opposed by other HASC members, the White House, and the Air Force, however.  Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee and currently chair of the Tactical and Land Forces subcommittee, tried to eliminate the provision during full committee markup, but his amendment failed by voice vote.  He tried to bring the matter to the full House during debate on the bill, but the Rules Committee did not approve his amendment.  Thus the bill, as passed, includes the Space Corps directive.

The NDAA is an authorization bill that sets policy and recommends funding levels, but does not actually provide any money.  Only appropriations bills provide money. The House has begun debate on the Make America Secure Act (H.R. 3219) that combines four of the 12 regular FY2018 appropriations bills, including Defense. (The others are Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Energy-Water, and Legislative Branch.)

The Perry amendment would have prohibited any money being used to establish a Space Corps.  The Rules Committee approved an initial list of amendments yesterday, but they were to other parts of the bill.  It dealt with amendments to the defense portion (Division A) today and the Perry amendment is not designated as “made in order” on the committee’s website or included in the committee’s resolution.  That means it will not be debated.

The proposal still has a long way to go. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) does not have a similar provision in its version of the NDAA. Instead it proposes a much broader reorganization of DOD, creating a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) who would oversee all space, cyberspace, and information programs at DOD.  The CIWO would serve as the Principal DOD Space Advisor (PDSA), a position currently filled by the Secretary of the Air Force. Once the Senate passes its version of the NDAA, the two chambers will have to negotiate a compromise and then money will have to be found to implement whatever they decide to do.

Among the amendments the Rules Committee did approve is one that will be offered by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to add money for DOD’s commercial weather data pilot program.  Bridenstine created a commercial weather data pilot program at NOAA two years ago and did the same for DOD last year.  The House-passed FY2018 NDAA extends the DOD program for another year, but, again, it is an authorization not an appropriations bill, so does not provide money to carry it out.  Bridenstine’s amendment to H.R. 3219 would add $5 million for the program within the Air Force’s Research, Development, Test and Evaluation budget.  The addition would be offset by an equal reduction to the Army’s Operation and Maintenance account.

Another amendment that was approved by the Rules Committee will be offered by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) to prohibit the use of funds to develop, procure or deploy a space-based ballistic missile defense layer.

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