House panel punts on Space Force

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The House’s version of the annual defense policy does not yet touch President Trump’s Space Force proposal.

While the draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be released Monday does not include anything about Space Force, staffers told reporters ahead of the bill’s release they are expecting members to offer amendments to create the military branch when they debate the bill Wednesday.

Staffers said the proposal was left out of the bill for now because committee members could not come to an agreement on the issue.

“There’s a very wide range of opinions, from ‘hell no’ to full Space Force, and that range of opinions covers both sides and stretches across the aisle,” a staffer said. “So we wanted to give members the opportunity, because they couldn’t come to agreement with the chairman on what they wanted to do, so this gets bumped forward.”{mosads}

“Creating a new force is a big deal and doing it in a chairman’s mark really isn’t an appropriate place to do it,” the staffer added.

Later Monday morning, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told reporters Democrats and Republicans worked out an amendment that will be offered during Wednesday’s debate. The amendment closely follows the committee’s 2017 proposal for a space corps, he added.

“This is not President Trump’s idea,” Smith said. “I hope Democrats understand that of the many, many, many bad ideas that this president has had and the many bad things that he has done and the many ways that we should challenge him — don’t think of this as, well, if you’re for the Space Force that means you 100 percent support President Trump.”

Arguing that threats from Russia and China necessitate a greater focus from the military on space, the Trump administration has proposed creating a Space Force within the Department of the Air Force. That would make the Space Force’s relationship to the Air Force similar to that of the Marine Corps to the Navy.

The idea is similar to the space corps proposal that passed the House in 2017.

But lawmakers in both parties expressed concerns about some specifics of Trump’s Space Force proposal, such as how many new four-star generals would be created.

Asked why the Armed Services Committee could not come to an agreement on Space Force when it previously approved space corps, a staffer there are now “different members with different views.”

Smith added Monday that negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on the issue took too long to make it into the bill being released Monday.

The amendment both sides have agreed on differs from Trump’s proposal in part by only creating one new four-star general, as opposed to the administration’s proposal for three, Smith said. There are also fewer mandatory transfers of personnel into U.S. Space Command, he said.

“It’s going to be smaller and more focused in our view,” he said.

Even if a Space Force amendment doesn’t get added to the House version, there is still a possibility the new military branch could get created this year.

Despite initially being seen as more opposed to the idea than the House, the Senate Armed Services Committee included Space Force in its version of the NDAA.

The Senate and House will have to reconcile their versions of the bill before final passage, giving Space Force proponents another opportunity to fight for the service.

Updated at 11:21 a.m.

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