Space Force Doesn’t Make the Cut in FY2019 NDAA

Space Force Doesn’t Make the Cut in FY2019 NDAA

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) finished work on the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today.  The conference report reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill does not explicitly address creation of a Space Force as advocated by President Trump and others.  The House is expected to pass the conference report later this week.

Last year, the House version of the FY2018 NDAA called for creating a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  The Senate did not agree.  In conference, the two sides decided to commission an independent report that would provide a plan to establish a separate military department for DOD space activities.  An interim report is due next week (August 1) with the final report by the end of the year.

HASC and SASC both avoided the issue in their versions of the FY2019 NDAA since that report was not done.  The House, however, did direct that a U.S. Space Command be created as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command to carry out joint space warfighting.  In its Statement of Administration Policy, the Trump White House objected to the House provision arguing that nothing should be done until the report was completed.

Nevertheless, President Trump himself has taken center stage in advocating for a Space Force.  While the terms Space Corps and Space Force are sometimes used interchangeably, Space Corps notionally refers to an entity with the Air Force while Space Force is separate from the Air Force.  Trump made clear last month what he wants: “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal.”

The President cannot accomplish that on his own, however.  Congress must authorize and fund a new service.  Because of the attention Trump is bringing to the issue, one question was whether the NDAA conference committee might say something about it even though the House- and Senate-passed bills did not.

The answer is no.  While the conference report adopts the House provision requiring creation of a U.S. Space Command within USSTRATCOM and addresses a number of other space issues, it does not require creation of a Space Force or Space Corps (or another alternative, a Space Guard similar to the Coast Guard).

The conference report does require the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and a plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for space as a warfighting domain (Sec. 1607).

Both committees issued summaries of the conference agreement from their perspectives.  The SASC summary did not devote much attention to these matters, but the HASC summary included the following:

Space Warfighting

Russia and China are developing capabilities to deny the United States the advantages we derive from operating in Space. Equally concerning is the inability of the organizations responsible for the nation’s national security-related Space activities to prepare for Space to become a warfighting domain and to adequately develop and/or acquire essential national security Space systems.

Efforts to reform the Department’s approach to Space issues can be summarized in four equally important elements: acquisition reform, resources, cadre development, and joint warfighting. The NDAA comprehensively addresses each one of these to ensure that our Servicemembers are ready to defend our vital national interests in Space. The conference report also ensures that the Department’s Space investments are being executed in a way to ensure increased agility, lethality, and accountability.


• Directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative process for Space-related acquisitions.
• Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to improve the quality of the Space cadre within the Air Force.
• Establishes a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.
• Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and 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.  — HASC Summary of FY2019 NDAA

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