White House Objects to HASC’s Call for U.S. Space Command

White House Objects to HASC’s Call for U.S. Space Command

The White House is objecting to the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) call for a U.S. Space Command to be created as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).  The provision is part of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by HASC on May 9.  The House began consideration of the bill, H.R. 5515, today (Tuesday).  The White House’s Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) says the provision is premature.

During debate on last year’s NDAA, the White House opposed HASC’s attempt to create a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy. DOD, the Air Force, and the Senate also opposed it.  The final FY2018 NDAA required a study on the best way to organize the Air Force and DOD to manage national security space activities.  An interim report is due in August and the final version in December.

Last year’s bill also called for creating a U.S. Space Command within USSTRATCOM, but it was not included in the final bill.  HASC decided to revive it this year (Sec. 1601).  During full committee markup, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of the HASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee and who opposed the Space Corps last year, offered an amendment to modify Sec. 1601 to allow DOD to waive the requirement because it is premature since the study is not completed yet.  Turner’s amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

The White House and Turner agree that it is premature.

The Administration appreciates the Committee’s continued focus and attention as it executes its
oversight responsibilities of our nation’s military space capabilities and forces. However, the
Administration believes that section 1601 is premature. The Department currently is
conducting a review of its space organizational and management structure as required by
section 1601 of the FY 2018 NDAA. Once complete, the Administration will review these
findings and deliver the required report and consult with Congress. — White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 5515

Interestingly, President Trump has repeatedly expressed support for a Space Force, although he has not publicly commented on the U.S. Space Command idea.  SAPs are formal statements to Congress of the views of a presidential administration on legislation about to be debated in Congress, so this presumably represents Trump’s position.

The SAP also objects to two other space provisions in the bill: sections 1603 and 1609.

Section 1603 would terminate DOD’s authority to provide space situational awareness (SSA) data to commercial and foreign entities on January 1, 2024 and require DOD to arrange for a study of what government agency should take on that responsibility.  The White House National Space Council is currently working on a Space Traffic Management policy that addresses these issues and will assign the commercial and foreign entity SSA responsibility to the Department of Commerce.  The SAP asserts that Section 1603 would “interfere” with that ongoing activity.

Section 1609 would restrict DOD’s expenditures on the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System and Enterprise Space Battle Management Command and Control program until DOD certifies to Congress that the Air Force has entered into a contract to provide “existing best in breed commercial space situational processing software.”  The SAP says that section would add cost and schedule to both programs and “delay delivery of a critical space situational awareness capability to the warfighter.”

The nine page memo lists a number of other objections to the bill in its current form.  The House will continue debate on the bill tomorrow (Wednesday).  The House dealt with 103 amendments today.  One is space-related.  Offered by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico), it requires a study by a federally funded research and development center on space launch locations.


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