Top Armed Services Republican: 'I don't think anybody is satisfied' with Space Force proposal

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday that he doesn’t think “anybody is satisfied” with the Trump administration’s Space Force proposal.

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryHouse and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners Overnight Defense: Dems confident defense bill will pass despite party infighting | GOP chairman's bill would review US, Saudi ties | Senators briefed on sexual assault allegation against top general MORE (R-Texas) told reporters that he expects the broad outlines of the proposal -- to have a military branch for space under the Department of the Air Force -- will be taken up by the House, but that lawmakers will change specifics within the plan.

“I am not and I don’t think anybody is satisfied with the state of the proposal that initially came over,” Thornberry said. “They got directed to send it over like 10 days before it came, so ... the Air Force acknowledges that it was not fleshed out the way it should be and vetted.”

In February, the Pentagon officially delivered to Congress its legislative proposal to fulfill President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE’s order to establish 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 idea closely follows the House’s 2017 plan for a space corps, which passed the lower chamber but failed to get off the ground because of bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

The Space Force proposal will face likely its toughest audience Thursday when Pentagon officials testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The panel is composed of members of both sides of the aisle who question whether any separate military service is the most cost-effective way to improve the military’s operations in space.

In the House, Armed Services Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Esper officially nominated for Defense secretary | Pentagon silent on Turkey getting Russian missile system | House, Senate headed for clash over defense bill House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (D-Wash.) has described the proposal as top-heavy, and said that the end result will be different than what the White House envisioned. He has also cited the proposal’s inclusion of broad authority to transfer funding and waive civil service rules as reasons he thinks it is “highly problematic.”

Thornberry’s comments  on Tuesday show there are bipartisan concerns with the specifics on both sides of the Capitol.

“I have no doubt there will be changes to what the administration sent over,” he said, specifically calling out the transfer authority issue.

Still, Thornberry, alluding to the House’s space corps idea, said “this committee was there first and believes still that a separate organization focused on space is what we need to do.”

He said he has faith in Reps. 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.) and Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings Trump officials defend use of facial recognition amid backlash Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings MORE (R-Ala.), the current and former chairmen of the Armed Services subcommittee with oversight of space, to work out the details.

“It doesn’t mean they’re going to solve every problem in space,” Thornberry said. “But it means that, I think, our committee can start out on a good track and take the essential steps that need to be taken now even though there will undoubtedly more that is added to it as time goes on.”