Rep. Jim Cooper, a Leader in National Security Space Policy, To Retire

Rep. Jim Cooper, a Leader in National Security Space Policy, To Retire

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) announced today that he will not run for reelection. A highly influential member of the House Armed Services Committee on national security space policy issues, Cooper was one half of the bipartisan congressional duo that led to creation of the U.S. Space Force.

Cooper represents Tennessee’s 5th congressional district in the Nashville area and chairs HASC’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

He left no doubt that his decision to retire was because of the state’s General Assembly “dismembering Nashville” when it redrew congressional district lines.

“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville. No one tried harder to keep our city whole. I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville. There’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates.”

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee)

Cooper and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) were the bipartisan HASC pair who pushed for separating space from the Air Force. Rogers is now HASC’s Ranking Member.

In 2017, Republicans controlled the House and Rogers chaired the HASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee with Cooper as Ranking Member. The two worked together to win agreement in the House to create a Space “Corps” within the Department of the Air Force, analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy, despite intense opposition from DOD and the Trump White House.

In 2018, former President Trump threw his personal support behind establishing a Space “Force” as a separate military department, not just a Corps within the Air Force. He forced DOD to fall in line although the eventual outcome is what Cooper and Rogers advocated — not a new Department, but a new military service within the Department of the Air Force. Cooper continues to keep the Space Force’s feet to the fire particularly on acquisition and the need to field new space systems faster.

Cooper served in the House from 1983-1995 and then returned in 2002. In total it will be 32 years. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) praised Cooper as “one of the most serious, steady, and intelligent policymakers and legislators our country has produced.” HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-WA) cited Cooper’s “steady leadership and civility” that “brought thoughtful, pragmatic solutions to some of the biggest national security challenges facing the United States.”

“As Chair of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Congressman Cooper has played a key role in helping ensure the United States meets future threats, especially in space. The subcommittee he leads is responsible for shaping a range of important, sometimes contentious policy issues, and Congressman Cooper’s measured approach and commitment to reasonable debate and rational discussion has been incredibly valuable to the work of the Committee.” —  HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-WA)

Cooper is the 29th House Democrat to decide not to run again in 2022, along with 13 Republicans, either because they are retiring or running for other offices. In the Senate, five Republicans and one Democrat are not running.

From a space policy perspective, the major changes will be not only Cooper’s retirement, but that of House Science, Space, and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and, although he rarely weighs in on space issues, Rep. Peter deFazio (D-OR), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A harsh critic of billionaires flying into space and disrupting airline flights that must avoid the launch and landing corridors, he is blamed or credited with defeat of the Space Frontier Act in the closing days of the 115th Congress.

House SS&T members Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), famed for his “Mars 2033” bumper stickers, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) also are leaving, though Brooks is not retiring. He is running to replace Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Shelby, 87, a formidable force in space policy for decades and currently vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is retiring after more than 35 years in the Senate and 8 years in the House before that. He initially was a Democrat, but switched to the Republican party in 1994. A staunch advocate for any government or private sector space enterprise in Alabama, home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and United Launch Alliance’s rocket production facility in Decatur among others, Shelby’s influence on civil space policy cannot be underestimated.

Though not known for an interest in space, it is notable that Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also is retiring, so that committee will have a new landscape no matter which party controls the Senate after the November elections.

On the House Appropriations Committee, Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee member Charlie Crist (D-FL) is not running for reelection, opting to run for Governor instead. He already was Florida’s governor from 2007-2011 when he was a Republican.

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