Amendment to slow Space Force shot down in House defense markup

Amendment to slow Space Force shot down in House defense markup
© Greg Nash

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voted down a proposal that would have slowed the groundwork for President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE’s desired "Space Force."

The amendment was offered by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) during the panel’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

While a proposal for the Space Force is not included in the NDAA, the heads of the strategic forces subcommittee, Reps. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: House panel subpoenas 8chan owner | FCC takes step forward on T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Warren wants probe into FTC over Equifax settlement | Groups make new push to end surveillance program House Homeland Security Committee subpoenas 8chan owner Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-Ala.) and Jim CooperJames (Jim) Hayes Shofner CooperLive coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy House panel OKs space military branch Overnight Defense: Officials approved sending Saudis nuclear technology after Khashoggi killing | Space Command pick warns of challenges ahead | Lawmakers clash over bill blocking low-yield nukes MORE (D-Tenn.), have proposed a move to build up a space war fighting unit under the Air Force, as well as a subunified command that would report to Strategic Command.

But Turner argued that because the Defense Department (DOD) is set to provide an interim report this summer on the feasibility of a space force, Congress should not move ahead on a space unit until that time.

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“We’re in the process of awaiting the report we asked for, and yet we’re going to jump forward in this mark and direct DOD to undertake a reorganization while we’re asking them to study the reorganization,” Turner said.

The strategic forces subcommittee last year sought to create a new military branch that would be dedicated to space, with the proposal in the first version of the House NDAA. The proposal 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.

Turner’s amendment would allow the Pentagon to sidestep creating the Air Force unit for space if the upcoming study does not recommend it.

The provision would also ensure that Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE has “the flexibility to be able to take action if the report that we’ve asked for comes up with a recommendation different than we’re compelling,” Turner said.

Rogers argued that regardless of an upcoming report “there’s still things in space that have to be fixed.”

Cooper, meanwhile, asserted that Turner last year tried to shoot down a plan for a space force, claiming “he's trying to oppose us this year.”

“I think that any member of this committee who wants to make sure that we avoid a space Pearl Harbor will support the subcommittees’ work on this,” Cooper said.

Turner denied the characterization, saying he wants to wait for the Pentagon study.

“I am not opposed, what I am for is a legislative process,” he said.

Cooper said Turner could slow walk the issue as long as he wanted, but cautioned that those efforts could be detrimental to the U.S.

"That will not help prepare the nation against an increasing threat," he said. "We need to do more than what we’ve been doing.”