HASC Approves ‘Space Corps’ within Air Force

The Democratic-controlled House has settled on the worst possible option.

space force space corps logo

President Trump has been pushing for the creation of a new military service, the Space Force. The Republican-controlled Senate is going along. The Democratic-controlled House, however, is pushing for a Space Corps within the Air Force.

The House Armed Services Committee voted to establish a United States Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force. The vote came in the overnight hours Thursday. The committee began its markup of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday morning. After a nearly 21-hour session, the committee passed the NDAA 33-24.

The Space Corps amendment was offered by the HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee leaders Chairman Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). The proposal is similar to what the committee proposed in the 2018 NDAA, including the name of the new space service, U.S. Space Corps, rather than the Trump administration’s preferred name, U.S. Space Force.

Like the Marine Corps, the Space Corps would be led by a four-star Commandant who would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The HASC amendment will have to be reconciled with the language in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2020 NDAA, which authorizes a U.S. Space Force led by a four-star Commander.

According to the Cooper-Rogers amendment:

• The Space Corps will have personnel and assets transferred by the Air Force but may not include the personnel or assets of the National Reconnaissance Office or the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
• The Space Corps will he organized, trained, and equipped to provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from and to space. The Space Corps will “protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression, from and to space and conduct space operations.”
• The secretary of the Air Force may establish a separate, alternative acquisition system for defense space acquisitions. The Deputy Secretary of Defense will submit the plan to the congressional defense committees. The alternative acquisition system will cover defense space acquisitions except those overseen by the intelligence community.
• The secretary of defense can transfer to the Space Corps “functions, assets and obligations of the space elements of the Air Force (including all property, records, installations, activities, facilities, agencies and projects). Personnel that can be transferred include commissioned officers and enlisted members of the space elements of the Air Force.
• While the SASC language sets a one-year transition period for the Space Force to figure out its organization, the HASC bill says the transition period begins on January 1, 2021; and ends not later than December 31, 2023.
• The secretary of defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report that includes a detailed plan for the organizational structure of the Space Corps, and how the Space Corps will coordinate with the United States Space Command, the Space Development Agency, and other space elements of the armed forces.

Space News, “House Armed Services Committee votes to create a U.S. Space Corps

It remains unclear to me what problem this reorganization is trying to solve. We’re in the process of re-establishing US Space Command to coordinate all space operations, similar to what US Special Operations Command does quite well in its bailiwick. It hasn’t been given nearly enough time to demonstrate its inadequacy to the mission; indeed, it hasn’t started.

Given that, my preferred options were:

  1. Do nothing. Simply give USSPACECOM the time and resources to do the job.
  2. Create a fifth military service, as Trump wanted, but do it right this time. When we created the Air Force in 1947, we did it the wrong way. We simply took all of the assets of the Army Air Force and split it off into its own service, leaving the Navy and Marine Corps with air forces of their own. (Bombshell’s Erin Simpson likes to joke that the Navy’s army needs an air force.)
  3. Do 2 above but call it Space Corps and nest it under the Air Force, which has always had the bulk of US military space assets. (I’m persuadable that this is actually a better option than 2.
  4. What HASC has just authorized.

My problem with this is that it spends precious resources for no obvious gain. We’re going to design new uniforms, new bureaucracies, new buildings, etc. simply to have the existing Air Force space assets under a different command within the Air Force. And maybe not even all of those, given that the Air Force contributes the lion’s share of personnel to NRO and NGA.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Is it just me or does that logo look like the eagle is trying to pick up the earth and fly it away from that threatening blob of toothpaste?

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  2. Kathy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I thought it ironic the eagle was on the Earth in a space corps logo. Wouldn’t it make more sense if she were orbiting the planet? granted, that space toothpaste looks menacing.

    The whole things strikes me as more than faintly ridiculous, bombastic, and premature. kind of like the USSR’s “strategic rocket forces.”

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  3. Gustopher says:

    Wouldn’t the eagle die in space? It needs a jetson’s style goldfish bowl space helmet.

    Also, the toothpaste looks French.

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  4. Tony W says:

    Thank you for your mention of USSPACECOM – I’m not persuaded the bloatard-in-chief even knows what that is.

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  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: I think having a space helmet on that eagle would be cool. Maybe even better, a little Michelin Man spacesuit as well.

    (Given how military funding is carried out, this is nothing more than the equivalent of throwing a huge chunk of steak into shark-infested waters and yelling “CHOW TIME!!!” At least I hope we get some useful technology out of it.)

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  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Not a blob of toothpaste, but a swirl or stripe of toothpaste. Otherwise, good catch!

    ETA: This is just me, but for some reason, I always imagined that the eagle would be wearing a g-suit. Just sayin’…

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  7. Kathy says:

    The Apollo 11 mission patch shows an eagle overflying the Moon (how?) carrying some kind of branch or sprig or something.

    So there’s a long tradition of space eagles placed in impossible situations which would result in their deaths.

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  8. Mr. Prosser says:

    Should have used Captain Link Hogthrob, he even looks a bit like trump.

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  9. mike shupp says:

    I think what motivates Democratic Congressmen is the idea (hope?) that a Space Corps can be limited to a 20 billion dollar per year organization with a few thousand people manning computer consoles and monitoring the orbits of various satellites and orbital debris — the sort of Situational Awareness already being conducted. A Space Force, on the other hand, threatens to become an outfit with its own astronauts and spacecraft, threatening to investigate space objects personally and knock down the ones that seem to be threatening to the US while protecting US satellites from other nations. This could become a very big deal — maybe 200 billion per year — and probably would violate several UN treaties.

    Not that I expect Congressmen to speak openly about such matters.

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  10. DrDaveT says:

    I will admit that I am sympathetic to some of the ideas in play here. I think that military space operations are important enough to merit a dedicated force, including independent acquisition authority. I think that the Air Force, with its intense fighter jock bias and contempt for enlisted personnel, is not the right organization to manage it. That said, I don’t really know what the best solution would be.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    Once Trump ordered a space force, wasn’t option 1 off the table? Option 2 is what Trump wanted, but he didn’t seem to have had any real thought behind it. Somebody must have pushed the idea on him, but who, why? For Trump there doesn’t seem to be anything behind it except ego and grandiosity, he wants to say ‘I’m Commander in Chief of the Space Force.” The Air Force, which would have had to give up most of the relevant assets, would not have been very fond of option 2. I’m not seeing much difference between 3 and 4. And given that the whole thing sounds like a circle jerk to keep Trump happy, I’m not sure why the details matter. Nor do I see what the House committee is trying to do here. Seems to me the best option is to slow walk this and hope in two years Trump is irrelevant and everybody can back off and try to do something sensible, which may well be option 1. Which maybe is why HASC is proposing a longer timeline.

    James, you seem to have followed this seriously and I’m sure you have good reasons for disliking what the House committee is doing. This whole space force thing seems to have gotten surprisingly little press. I, for whatever it’s worth, would be interested in a longer post. And I apologize if I’ve missed earlier posts.

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  12. grumpy realist says:

    Well, we’ve seen evidence that eagles can swim, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t have them fly in Outer Space as well…..

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: No. It’s the wrong bird. Given this is all Trump’s brain fart, I want Duck Dodgers of the 24-1/2th century.

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  14. Slugger says:

    Is there an actual job for this force to do? “Deterring aggression from and to space” sounds kind of grand, but I am unaware of ISIS installations on the moon. Of course, I will admit that I may be out of the loop on this. The Lunar Iranians may have placed that device on the tanker that the tanker’s owners is pretty sure did not come from an Iranian naval vessel.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Slugger: The grainy video of the Iranian boat was just on again. Pompeo says this shows an Iranian unexploded ordnance technician (bomb disposal) removing a limpet mine from the tanker. This time I noticed there are about twelve people milling around on the deck right next to the guy watching him handle that supposed unexploded mine.

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  16. Richard Gardner says:

    Organize, train and equip? NOT a combatant commander/functional commander. I know JamesJ understands this well but it sounds like the White House doesn’t understand Goldwater-Nichols. USSOCOM (SpecOps) did a procurement disaster with their mini-sub that never saw service (ASDS) 2000-2005. I just don’t see the need to carve out “Space” as a Service. Maybe a return to a functional commander (merged with STRATCOM in 2002) if you make it most of Intel and Info Ops, and the weird black stuff under the rock. (To infinity, and BEYOND!). [Disclaimer, unless the CoC is prepping for an alien invasion and knows more than us peons].

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: There’s been talk of a Space Force going back at least as far as the Clinton Administration. I’m not sure it’s necessary but it’s not simply something Trump pulled out of his fourth point of contact. But, no, Trump having tweeted out a declaration that he’s creating a Space Force doesn’t obligate Congress to give him one. Harry Truman wanted to consolidate the Army and Navy into a single service; instead, Congress created a third service, the Air Force.

    I wrote a bit more extensively on this when Trump first announced the idea almost a year ago to the day.

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  18. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure it’s necessary but it’s not simply something Trump pulled out of his fourth point of contact.

    Next he’ll want to change the term for the first point of contact from “balls of the feet” to “bone spurs…”

    (For those who wonder what we’re talking about)

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  19. Mu says:

    So what four star will want this brigade (if you count the janitors and administrative assistants) command?

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  20. James Joyner says:

    @Mu: It’s a service chief billet, so all of them. Post-1986, the chiefs aren’t in the chain of command but they’re hugely influential. The combatant commanders (CENTCOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM, SOCOM, etc.) have huge commands but the chiefs organize, train, and equip the force and think longer term. So, while we’ve made a big brouhaha over the Pivot to Asia and the Return of Great Power Competition in recent years, the services have been acquiring things like F-35s and Ford-class aircraft carriers for decades. They didn’t do that to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Slugger:

    Is there an actual job for this force to do? “Deterring aggression from and to space” sounds kind of grand, but I am unaware of ISIS installations on the moon.

    well… there COULD be Nazi’s… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jth4yATniS4

    Maybe he was watching what the Palin-look-alike did, and liked it.

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  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: One of the networks that shows international TV and movies ran that movie while I was in Korea. It wasn’t that bad. For example, not as bad as “Ice Pirates.”

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