House subpanel pushes for space reforms after Trump calls for 'space force'

House subpanel pushes for space reforms after Trump calls for 'space force'
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Lawmakers on a House panel are moving forward with a push to build up a space war fighting unit, though they are stopping short of trying to create a separate military branch as floated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE.

The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee is working to use its portion of the annual defense policy bill to create a new numbered unit within the Air Force as well as a subunified command that would report to Strategic Command.

“I don’t think that the members are backing off on this,” a committee staffer said of the so-called space corps suggested by some Republicans in recent months.

“President Trump has come out and said that he has endorsed an independent space force. I think our members are still focused on that. I think our members also realize that nothing happens overnight," the staffer said.

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Last year, the strategic forces subcommittee sought to create a new military branch that would be dedicated to space.

The space corps proposal was in the first version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House last year, but was stripped out in negotiations with the Senate because of fierce opposition from the Pentagon.

Instead, the version of the NDAA signed into law required the Air Force to study the possibility of creating such a military branch.

However, Trump last month endorsed the idea of creating a new military branch for space.

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said, 'Maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the Space Force.' And I was not really serious, and then I said, 'What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen,' ” Trump said.

At a background briefing Wednesday, the committee staffer said the strategic forces subcommittee recognizes the research it required the Air Force to do last year is ongoing, but that it could not allow “stagnation on these really hard problems.”

The sub-unified command created by the bill would be called U.S. Space Command and would be responsible for all joint space war fighting operations. The idea is to “normalize how joint space war fighting will be done across the Department of Defense,” the staffer said.

The numbered air force, meanwhile, is meant to fill a hole being left by the 24th Air Force transitioning from space to cyber, as well as develop the space cadre within the Air Force. The 14th Air Force, which also deals with space, would focus more on support roles under the bill, while the new numbered force would focus on war fighting.

Asked if the numbered air force is meant to lay the groundwork for an eventual space force, the staffer said the committee is taking “foundational steps.” 

“I think we’re taking foundational steps to make sure that we’re able to continue moving forward on the space reform and space corps initiatives,” the staffer said.

The staffer said Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAllies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump Congress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Trump nominates ambassador to Turkey MORE “committed to resolving this to the members’ satisfaction, and I think the department is slowly coming around to that. And so we’ll see. But it’s definitely an area where we believe we needed to continue forward progress on.”