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 Thornberry (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 Trump’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 Smith (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 Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Mike Rogers (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.”