Top Air Force Officials Punt on Trump’s “Space Force”

Top Air Force Officials Punt on Trump’s “Space Force”

The top civilian and military leaders of the Air Force punted today when asked about President Trump’s comments yesterday calling for creation of a Space Force.  The Air Force and other Pentagon officials have been stridently opposing congressional efforts to create a Space Corps or other unique entity to execute DOD space activities for the past year.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein appeared before the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee for the annual review of the Air Force’s budget request.

Trump’s comment yesterday apparently caught everyone off guard.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Chair, Defense Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee, at hearing on Air Force budget, March 14, 2018. Screengrab.

Subcommittee chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) began her questioning by asking Wilson about what the current policy is and how she interpreted Trump’s remarks.  Wilson deflected the question, responding with an answer about the Air Force’s overall FY2019 budget request and saying that nowhere is the President and Vice President’s leadership in space clearer than in that request “which the Chief and I are here to talk to you about today.”

Goldfein followed suit, explaining his experience serving in the past with Gen. James Mattis, now the Secretary of Defense, as his “space coordinating authority” and he now feels “that same responsibility as the lead for joint space operations” and is “looking forward to the conversation” about space as a warfighting domain.  Trump also spoke about space as a warfighting domain in his comments yesterday, but Goldfein’s answer avoided the issue of the Space Force.

Granger did not press them on the issue and it did not arise again during the hearing.

Last year, the House Armed Services Committee, led by Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Alabama) and Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee), included language in the House-passed version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring DOD to establish a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy.  They feel the Air Force is focused on air superiority and space activities suffer as a result even though they are crucial to national security.

Wilson, Goldfein and other DOD officials, including Mattis, have insisted that while they agree changes need to be made, at this time it is critical to integrate space with DOD’s other warfighting domains (land, sea, air and cyber), not separate it.   The Trump Administration opposed creation of a Space Corps in its Statement of Administration Policy on the House bill.  The House passed it nonetheless, but the Senate did not agree.  The final version of the bill requires a study that is to be submitted by the end of this year.  Rogers and Cooper said last week that they intend to continue their efforts.



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