Armed services committee members are racing to get the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on the floor this week after conferees reached a deal last Friday.
Lawmakers speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California this weekend confirmed that negotiations were complete on the long-awaited NDAA conference bill, and Hill staffers confirmed Monday that lawmakers were putting the final touches on the bill and gathering a majority of conferee signatures, with plans to make the bill report public shortly thereafter.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee, confirmed during a Dec. 7 panel at the Reagan forum that Congress would be “signing out” of the bill on Monday, with a vote expected later in the week. The House is expected to vote as early as Wednesday, and a Senate vote could quickly follow.
Lawmakers continue to keep details of the bill close to the chest until the report is made public, but when asked about the fate of President Trump’s coveted Space Force, Rogers said, “I have been glowing for the past day.” Rogers has long advocated for a separation of the U.S. military’s space assets and personnel to a new branch of the armed forces, but still placed under the Air Force.
“The hay’s not in the barn, but it’s real close to the barn door,” he added.
The Air Force has stood up a new “war room” of space experts to prepare for the new branch to be authorized, new Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett at the Reagan forum. While the Marine Corps’ place under the Navy has been used as an example for the Space Force-Air Force relationship, Barrett noted that while the Marine Corps is more people-focused, the Space Force would be “a talent-driven, tech-based entity.” She declined to share further details about the war room until after the FY ’20 NDAA was released.
Air Force leaders said Monday that once the Space Force is approved, the service is ready to move out on its implementation.
“I think when we get told go, we’re ready, it’s going to happen fast,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, senior enlisted leader for U.S. Space Command, during a panel discussion with media at the Pentagon. Towberman also serves as command chief for Air Force Space Command, and noted that he was involved in planning discussions making recommendations for the initial makeup of the Space Force team.
“We’re excited about it, and I think we’ve got the people that we need in the places that we need, to be able to move with speed but to still move smartly and avoid potential blind spots,” he said.