Backers of space-based military branch: We will not allow a ‘space Pearl Harbor’

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The chief backers of Congress’s plan to create a new branch of the military dedicated to space are hailing the final version of a defense policy bill, even though it does not include their proposal.

In a statement, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said the reforms that did make it into the bill are a first step.

“We are pleased the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 takes the first step in fundamentally changing and improving the national security space programs of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force in particular,” they said in a joint statement.

“This is just the first step. We will not allow the United States national security space enterprise to continue to drift towards a space Pearl Harbor.”


On Wednesday, House and Senate negotiators unveiled a compromise National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that does not include the creation of Space Corps. Instead, it would require the deputy secretary of Defense to contract a federally funded research and development corporation not associated with the Air Force to study the issue.

Rogers and Cooper included Space Corps in the House-passed version of the NDAA. The Senate bill, by contrast, would have banned Space Corps’ creation.

Rogers and Cooper argued the new service was necessary to ensure the military is putting the focus on space it deserves as adversaries such as Russia and China advance in that arena.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein opposed the plan.

All acknowledged the military needs to do better on space issues, but said creating the new military branch would be premature and could just add more bureaucracy that ultimately hinders the military’s space operations.

Though the bill would not create Space Corps, the final NDAA does include some changes to the way the military handles space. The bill would eliminate the principal adviser for space, the Defense Space Council and the deputy chief of staff for space operations, which lawmakers felt added unneeded layers of bureaucracy.

It would also give Air Force Space Command sole authority for organizing, training and equipping all space forces within the Air Force.

In their statement, Rogers and Cooper likened the changes in the NDAA to the Air Corps Act of 1926, which established the Army Air Corps. The service was eventually turned into its own branch, the Air Force.

Rogers and Cooper pledged to work closely with and oversee the deputy Defense secretary and Air Force secretary as the changes are made.

“At a time when Russia and China are developing new offensive capabilities designed to deafen and blind America in a future conflict, lack of accountability and leadership on space issues, as well as development and acquisition failures, undermine our national security and leave the country vulnerable,” they said. “The Air Force will no longer be able to treat space as a third-order priority after fighter jets and bombers.”

Tags James Mattis Jim Cooper

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