Space Force Could Be Authorized In FY 2020 Defense Bill, Lawmaker Says

Legislation to implement President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force will likely be considered as part of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill that Congress will take up next year, a key House member said June 21.

Two congressionally mandated reports that the Department of Defense owes Congress later this year will guide lawmakers as they draft the “statutory framework” to set up the Space Force, said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel, who welcomed the president’s proposal. 

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). (Photo courtesy of congressman's office)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). (Photo courtesy of congressman's office)

One report, due Aug. 1, calls for a review of space reorganization options. Rogers expects the document to endorse a Space Force in light of Trump's support for one.

The other report, due Dec. 31, calls for a federally funded research and development center to write a roadmap for the possible creation of a military space department.

Rogers, who spoke at a Capitol Hill event organized by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute, said he does not expect the Space Force to cost much more than today’s space apparatus. Other than creating a secretary and a service structure, the new entity will mainly use existing military and civilian personnel, and Air Force Space Command’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado could become the Space Force’s headquarters, he said.

While the Space Force would consist mostly of what are now Air Force space programs, Rogers believes that Army and Navy space programs might be folded into the new organization as well. He doubts, though, that the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which serve both DoD and the Intelligence Community, would be moved into the Space Force.

Trump announced June 18 that he wants to form a Space Force to ensure U.S. space dominance (Defense Daily, June 18). He told Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make his proposal a reality.

Space Force proponents assert that space does not receive enough attention in the aviation-focused Air Force and that a new space entity is needed to counter growing threats from China and Russia.

“We need a culture of space dominance and an appreciation of the space mission,” Rogers said.

Opponents, such as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), argue that creating a Space Force would be too disruptive.

Rogers plans to ask Trump to declassify more space threat information to help educate the public about the need for a Space Force.

“We have far too much classification of information about what we’re dealing with here,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff that should be declassified. I guarantee you that if the media and the public knew a fraction of what the threat is, they would be howling for this to be done. It would go real fast.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters June 21 that he looks forward to seeing DoD’s specific recommendations for a Space Force. In the meantime, Congress will work through the space provisions proposed for the FY 2019 defense authorization bill, including a House-passed measure to create a U.S. Space Command within U.S. Strategic Command to promote joint space warfighting.

The House could vote next week to formally begin a conference with the Senate on the FY 2019 bill, Thornberry said.

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