Senate panel to hold first 'Space Force' hearing next week

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its first official hearing on President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE’s "Space Force" proposal next week, the committee announced Thursday.

“A coherent space strategy is an integral part of our National Defense Strategy,” committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDemocrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections Bottom Line Overnight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement. “I look forward to hearing from Pentagon leadership about what they see as the necessary capabilities of a space force, the costs and benefits associated with their solutions, and what our full range of options are.”

Space Force has come up in several hearings this year in the House and Senate Armed Services committees, but the April 11 hearing will be the first dedicated to the issue.

A who’s who of Pentagon brass is scheduled to testify to defend Trump’s proposal: acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanWhy Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary Five questions for Trump's new defense secretary on first major tour Trump says media is part of vetting his nominees: 'We save a lot of money that way' MORE; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford; and U.S. Strategic Command commander Gen. John Hyten.

The panel will face a committee with skeptics on both sides of the aisle questioning whether creating a new branch of the military is the best way for the Pentagon to improve its operations in space and better compete with Russia and China.

“Defending American assets and interests in space is a must, and I hope this hearing will help answer key questions about how best to achieve that mission,” Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill What the gun safety debate says about Washington Senators ask for committee vote on 'red flag' bills after shootings MORE (R.I.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement. “Can it be accomplished with a full unified command for space, or is an entirely new and separate military branch needed? What are the costs of establishing a new military service for space?”

In February, the Pentagon officially delivered Congress its legislative proposal to fulfill Trump’s order to establish a Space Force. Unlike Trump’s original pledge to have the service be “separate but equal” from the Air Force, the final proposal calls for Space Force to remain under the Department of the Air Force in a structure similar to the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Navy.

That proposal closely follows the House’s 2017 idea for a space corps. That idea passed the lower chamber, but failed to get off the ground because of bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

The Pentagon has requested an initial $72.4 million for fiscal 2020 to set up the Space Force’s headquarters and is projecting it will cost a total of $2 billion over five years to set up the service.