Plans for Space Corps survive House debate

Plans for Space Corps survive House debate
© Greg Nash

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voted to move forward with the creation of a Space Corps, after a lengthy debate over whether Congress should spend more time studying the issue.

The committee on Wednesday voted against an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) that would have stopped the creation of a Space Corps and required a study on its creation instead.

“This mark is asking us to do something we have not done since 1947,” Turner said. “My concern is that we just have not risen to the level of the knowledge for us to make a decision that we haven’t made since 1947.”

The provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would create a separate military branch for space operations. The branch would be housed under the Air Force.

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The provision was part of the strategic forces subcommittee portion of the bill marked up last week.

The Air Force has come out against the plan, saying it would create unneeded bureaucracy.

But those who support the creation of the branch say it’s needed to ensure national security threats in space get the focus they deserve.

“This has been studied,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the subcommittee. “The Air Force is like any other bureaucracy. They don’t want to change. They certainly don’t want Congress telling them they have to change. But this is our role. It is what we’re here for. It has been painfully apparent from the briefings we’ve gotten from our general officers that both Russia and China have nearly caught us in space capabilities.”

Others said requiring a study rather than pressing forward with creating the branch is an example of Congress dithering.

“We really need to focus and pull together all of the various elements involved in space issues,” Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump blasts intel officials as 'passive and naive' | Lawmakers reintroduce Yemen war powers resolution | Dems push Pentagon to redo climate report | VA proposes new rules for private health care House Armed Services Dems demand Pentagon offer more complete climate change report Overnight Defense: Trump agrees to reopen government without wall funding | Senate approves stopgap spending | Dems ask Armed Services chair to block military funding for wall | Coast Guard official assures workers they will receive back pay MORE (D-Calif.) said. “And, unfortunately, Mr. Turner’s amendment is all too often our way of avoiding a necessary issue.”

Despite failing in a voice vote, some supported Turner’s amendment.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), an Air Force veteran, said she hadn’t even heard of the plan to create a Space Corps until Wednesday night. 

“I’m not on the subcommittee — I’m on three other subcommittees — and this is honestly the first time I’ve heard about a major reorganization to our Air Force,” McSally said. “I would just think that something this significant if we’re at that point in our committee that we would have hearings or discussions at the full committee level.”