HASC Approves ‘Space Corps’ within Air Force
The Democratic-controlled House has settled on the worst possible option.
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.—Space News, “House Armed Services Committee votes to create a U.S. Space Corps“
• 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.
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:
- Do nothing. Simply give USSPACECOM the time and resources to do the job.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.