The Department of Defense, which opposed a congressional proposal last year to create a space corps within the Air Force Department, is taking another look at the idea, according to a DoD official.

The examination is part of a broader, congressionally mandated review of options that Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is leading to ensure DoD is properly organized for space, said Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security. DoD plans to send Congress a report on the review’s conclusions by Aug. 1. 

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan (Army photo)
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan (Army photo)

“Assessment of the space corps is one of those options that is getting close attention, among others,” Rapuano testified late March 15 before the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel. Shanahan “is going to be recommending that set of options that best ensures lasting U.S. leadership and success in space.”

While DoD recently took a series of steps to improve space management, such as lengthening the term of the head of Air Force Space Command, “much more needs to be done to improve our ability to fight and win should a war either begin in or extend to space,” Rapuano said.

In parallel, DoD is hiring a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) to write a roadmap for the possible creation of a military space department (Defense Daily, Feb. 28). Congress called for the roadmap in case it ultimately decides to form such a department. The FFRDC is supposed to deliver an interim report to Congress Aug. 1 and a final report Dec. 31.

During deliberations last year on the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill, Pentagon officials, some senators and the White House Office of Management and Budget opposed a House proposal to create a space corps, saying more study should be done before a new entity is set up. Space corps proponents say the need for a major space revamp has only grown since then, as China and Russia have continued to develop their anti-satellite capabilities.

The push for a new space entity recently received a boost from President Trump, who signaled that he is warming to the idea.

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” the president said March 13 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California. “We may even have a space force.”