Space Force Within Inches Of the Finish Line

Space Force Within Inches Of the Finish Line

After an arduous two years, Congress is on the precipice of passing legislation to create a Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military.  House and Senate negotiators on the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reached agreement on the legislation today.  The House is expected to vote on it Wednesday followed quickly by the Senate.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and  SASC) issued a press release and a summary late this evening.  The full conference report is expected to be posted on the House Rules Committee website later tonight. [UPDATE: The bill and joint explanatory statement are now available.]

The committees’ summary says the following about the Space Force.

The final language is a compromise between what the House and Senate passed in their respective versions of the NDAA, which in turn was a compromise with what the Trump Administration wanted.  Kaitlyn Johnson of CSIS published a comparison of the three different proposals.

The final version will create a Space Force as part of the U.S. Air Force, headed by  a “Chief of Space Operations” reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force, who will also be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  For the first year, that person may also be Commander of U.S. Space Command (currently Gen. Jay Raymond).

The Space Force is often described as analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  The Marine Corps is headed by a Commandant, while the Navy is headed by the Chief of Naval Operations.  Both report to the Secretary of the Navy and both are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The conferees chose to give the new head of the Space Force a title equivalent to the CNO rather than Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The bill also creates a new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, elevating the current position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, as proposed by SASC.

The compromise allows Air Force personnel to be transferred to the Space Force, but no additional positions (“billets”) may be created, an effort to ensure the Space Force does not become a new bureaucracy.

The legislation would significantly change the acquisition system for space activities, too.

Additional details are expected in the full conference report.

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