No Space Corps in Final FY2018 NDAA

No Space Corps in Final FY2018 NDAA

House and Senate negotiators have completed their work on the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). One of the major space policy issues was whether to adopt a House provision requiring that a Space Corps be created within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  The answer is no, but other significant changes were made to DOD and Air Force management of space programs.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman, HASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee

The chief architects of the Space Corps idea were the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN).

While they did not get what they wanted, in a joint statement today they heralded the changes that are included in the bill.

Gone are three mechanisms put in place in prior years to improve management of military space programs, but which they consider simply more bureaucracy :

  • the Principal Defense Space Adviser (PDSA), a position filled by the Secretary of the Air Force
  • the Defense Space Council, and
  • the brand new “A11” Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Ranking Member, HASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee

The office to support the A11 position began operations just three months ago.  The Air Force reportedly planned to nominate Maj. Gen. David Thompson to the job.  He is currently Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command.

Instead, Rogers and Cooper said, the NDAA “takes the first step in fundamentally changing and improving the national security space programs” of DOD and the Air Force.  “We have consolidated leadership and coordination between operations, acquisition and training, and eliminated the decentralized and ineffective structure that for too long hampered our space capabilities and readiness.”

In addition to eliminating the PDSA, Defense Space Council, and the A11 slot, based on the Rogers-Cooper press release and summaries of the bill posted by HASC and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), the bill:

  • Reorganizes Air Force Space Command (AFSC), modeling it after the Office of Naval Reactors.  Assigns the Commander of AFSC for six years and empowers that person “with responsibility for personnel, operations, and acquisitions with respect to space forces of the Air Force.” (SASC) It will make AFSC the “sole authority for organizing, training, and equipping all space forces within the Air Force, answerable only to the Secretary of the Air Force, who will answer to Congress.” (Rogers-Cooper)
  • “Reassigns responsibility for managing Major Force Program 12, the Department’s budget category for national security space, from the Secretary of the Air Force” (Rogers-Cooper).  The Deputy Secretary of Defense is to determine which official should be responsible, but it cannot be the Secretary of the Air Force. (HASC)
  • Requires the Deputy Secretary of Defense to contract with a non-Air Force affiliated Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation (FFRDC) to provide Congress with a road map for establishing “a separate military department responsible for national security space activities of the DoD.” (HASC)

Rogers and Cooper assert that “We will not allow the United States national security space enterprise to continue to drift towards a Space Pearl Harbor.”

The Space Corps idea was included in the House-passed version of the NDAA.  The Air Force, DOD and the White House all opposed it.  The Senate also opposed it.  Its version of the NDAA specifically prohibited any funding authorized in the bill to be used to set up a Space Corps.  The Senate proposed creating a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CWIO) with authority over space, cyber and information.  None of the press releases mention the fate of that proposal, suggesting that it was not included.

Only the three press releases were available at press time.  The complete conference report reportedly will be publicly available tomorrow.




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