White House asks for flexibility in Space Force funding in stopgap spending measure

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The White House has asked Congress for flexibility to fund the Space Force, new submarines and a new nuclear warhead as part of an expected stopgap spending measure, among other requested exceptions.

Lawmakers are expected to pass a stopgap spending measure known as a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open when current funding expires after Sept. 30.

Such measures typically bar any changes to existing programs, but the administration has asked for a slew of exceptions.

Among them, the administration asked Congress to create new accounts specifically for the Space Force rather than keeping the money in the Air Force as it is now, according to a document obtained by The Hill.

The document argued keeping the money in the Air Force during the course of the CR creates unnecessary red tape for the year-old sixth branch of the military.

“Without this anomaly, most Space Force activities during the period of the CR would be required to be funded from the Air Force accounts, requiring manual adjustments of the obligations and disbursements if the final FY [fiscal year] 2021 appropriations bill provides funding for these activities in the Space Force accounts,” the document said. “This administrative burden would adversely impact Space Force’s mission execution as staff would devote more time to duplicative administrative work.”

Specifically, the administration asked for $2.6 billion to be moved in a Space Force operations and maintenance account, $77 million of which would be considered war funding. The administration also asked Congress to move $10.3 billion to a Space Force research, development, test and evaluation account and $2.2 billion to a Space Force procurement account.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) informally agreed to pursue a clean CR in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Defense officials have often warned about the damage done to the military by CRs because they cannot start new programs or adjust existing ones, with warnings getting more dire the longer a stopgap lasts.

It is unclear exactly how long lawmakers are aiming for the upcoming expected CR to last.

In the request for flexibility in the bill, the administration also asked Congress for the authority to buy the first two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, as well as authority to incrementally fund the subs.

Without that exception, the document said, the Pentagon “would be unable to begin design and construction activities for these ships and the Navy would be unable to meet U.S. Strategic Command requirements.”

Within requests for exceptions on the Energy Department budget, the administration also asked for the authority for the National Nuclear Security Administration to start work on the submarine-launched W93 nuclear warhead, poised to be the United States’s first new warhead design in decades.

“Without the anomaly, the department would be unable to begin work on the program, including coordination with U.S. and international partners, risking misalignment with the schedules of the U.S. Navy and the United Kingdom,” the document said.

Jordain Carney contributed 

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