The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday morning approved its $733 billion proposal for the next defense policy bill,  which includes plans to set up a new Space Corps within the Air Force.

HASC lawmakers voted 33 to 24 to advance its FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act proposal following debate that lasted through the night, including the defeat of an amendment from the ranking member to raise the topline to $750 billion.

Two of the committee’s Republicans, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), broke with their colleagues and voted for the bill.

Much of the debate over the topline centered on reaching the administration’s push for three to five percent real growth in the defense budget over the next five years. The $733 billion mark equaled 2.4 percent growth from last year’s budget, while both the administration and Senate are looking for $750 billion, which comes to about three percent.

“When Republicans sat in the majority, they were happy to hold the minority to this standard and legislate accordingly, cutting money from defense budgets to pay for their district-specific priorities. Why now are they choosing to pull $17 billion out of thin air for their pet projects? Because the leader of their party, President Trump, wants a round number to tout on the campaign trail, rather than good policy that keeps our country safe,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the HASC chair, said in a statement.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the committee’s ranking member, proposed the amendment to raise the topline, which was ultimately defeated along party lines, and which included additional funds for nuclear deterrence modernization (Defense Daily, June 11).

An amendment to establish a new Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force was approved unanimously.  

The measure, introduced by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), would have the Space Corps led by a four-star Air Force general, who would also serve with the Joint Chiefs, and a civilian secretary, as well as establish its own acquisition system.

Smith described the plan to reporters earlier this week as setting up a “more cost-effective, less bureaucratic” version of the administration’s current proposal for a Space Force (Defense Daily, June 10).

Under the amendment, the defense secretary is required to deliver Congress a report in 2021 on the personnel and authorization requirements to set up the Space Corps.

The proposal differs from the administration’s push to eventually have the Space Force as a sixth branch of the military separate from the Air Force.