Mattis Tells Congress No to Space Corps and CIWO

Mattis Tells Congress No to Space Corps and CIWO

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has sent a letter to House and Senate negotiators on the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) saying that he opposes both creation of a Space Corps or of a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO).  The House-version of the bill requires the former; the Senate version requires the latter.  Mattis wants neither.

James N. Mattis, the 26th Secretary of Defense.  Credit: DOD website (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

The letter was sent to the “big four” negotiators:  the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC):  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA).  The two-page letter, obtained by Politico, outlines the areas in which Mattis has the strongest concerns.  Chief among them are the budget caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which remains the law of the land, but Space Corps and CIWO also are mentioned in the relatively brief list.

HASC, SASC, and the Air Force agree that changes need to be made as to how national security space programs are managed. Each has its own solution, however.

The chairman and ranking member of HASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), are the initiators of the proposal to create a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  Thornberry supports it and an effort to bring the issue to the House floor for debate was squelched.

SASC opposed that idea, and during floor debate on the bill, an amendment was adopted by the Senate that prohibits any money authorized in the bill from being spent to create a Space Corps.  Instead, SASC wants to convert the position of DOD’s Chief Information Officer into a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) with authority over space, cyber, and information programs.

The Air Force insists that it knows changes need to be made and is making them, beginning with creation of a new position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations — the so-called “A11” slot.  That new office began operations in August and Maj. Gen. David Thompson, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, reportedly has been chosen to lead it.

In his letter, Mattis called the proposal to create a CIWO and a DOD Chief Management Officer “premature.”  As for the Space Corps, he said he opposes “creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have been making those same points.

The House and Senate have appointed their NDAA conferees.  While there is no specific timetable for their deliberations, it is all but a foregone conclusion that they will be able to reach a compromise.  Despite many differences over the decades, the two chambers have always managed to agree on a final version of the annual NDAA since the first one was passed in 1961.

Politico has posted the Mattis letter on its website.


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