The fiscal year 2020 defense authorization conference bill gives President Trump his coveted sixth military branch, by re-designating the existing Air Force Space Command as a Title 10-authorized Space Force under the Air Force.
The FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act report language and summary, released Dec. 9, involves only Air Force assets for the foreseeable future, but sources said Tuesday that plans remain in place to integrate Navy and Army space capabilities and programs following a series of reports from Pentagon brass.
The bill provides the secretary of the Air Force with the authority to transfer service personnel to the new force, once it is established, and requires no additional billets or funds above the FY ’20 presidential budget request of $72.4 million to stand up the branch.
It provides a new Space Force with its own budget authority, acquisition authority and separate leadership reporting directly to the Air Force secretary, and includes a number of oversight provisions to ensure Congress is kept appraised of its development.
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said in a Tuesday statement that the service was encouraged by the “prospect of legislation that will establish a U.S. Space Force.”
“We certainly appreciate the hard work and bipartisan support of the Congress and the administration that is bringing a separate service for space closer to reality,” she said. “We are reviewing the draft legislation and look forward to moving out smartly once legislation is passed by the Congress and signed by the President.”
The conference bill largely tracks with provisions laid out in the House- and Senate-passed NDAAs on the Space Force, but leaves open the question of Navy and Army space capabilities. The FY ’20 NDAA report states: —The Secretary shall carry out this subsection within military personnel of the Air Force otherwise authorized by this Act. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to authorize additional military billets for the purposes of, or in connection with, the establishment of the Space Force.”
The Navy and Army assets will be phased in over time following reports from senior Pentagon leaders, a senior armed services committee staffer on the Hill told Defense Daily on Tuesday.
“The department will tell us what they want to move and when they want to move it, and we’ll give them that authority,” the staffer said.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, told reporters that it was “premature” to discuss how and when non-Air Force personnel and programs would be integrated into the Space Force.
“We have not had those discussions at this point, just working on the NDAA and trying to get a good bill out, which I think we did. And we’re happy that Space Force is in it,” she said.
The newly proposed Space Force would include new positions such as the chief of space operations (CSO) who would become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff one year following the creation of the Space Force. The FY ’20 NDAA allows for Air Force Gen. John Raymond, U.S. Space Command Commander, to be dual-hatted as the leader of both the recently established combatant command and the future Space Force. Raymond is currently dual-hatted as the leader of USSPACECOM and Air Force Space Command.
The CSO would be required to update the congressional armed services committees every 60 days until spring 2023 with briefings and reports on implementation and establishment status.
The bill also creates two new civilian positions, including an assistant secretary of defense for space policy to be the senior civilian in the Office of the Secretary of Defense overseeing space warfighting. A current principal assistant to the secretary of the Air Force on space position will be re-designated as a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration position. This move more thoroughly separates out space-related procurement and developmental programs from the Air Force, and provides Congress with more oversight over the previous position.
That official, as the senior space architect, would be responsible for chairing a newly formed Space Force Acquisition Council, taking on Service Acquisition Executive responsibilities for space systems and programs starting Oct. 1, 2022, and coordinating with the Air Force Service Acquisition Executive on all space system efforts. Will Roper, service assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, currently performs that role for all of the Air Force’s programs of record.
The new assistant secretary of the Air Force would also oversee and direct the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, and the nascent Space Development Agency currently operating out of the Pentagon.
The Space Force had remained a “high echelon” issue in NDAA negotiations until almost the 11th hour, as armed services leaders told reporters it was being used by Democrats as leverage to include their own priorities. The White House ultimately agreed to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal workers in exchange for the new branch, which has been a personal priority for Trump and his administration.
Several progressive members of the Democratic caucus have already come out against the final NDAA bill, as multiple issues critical to their members were not included in the $738 billion agreement. The House is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday; if it passes, the Senate would take it up after.