The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) strategic forces panel sharply criticized Air Force leaders June 22 for resisting his proposal to create a separate space corps within the Air Force Department.

“I have to say I’ve been shocked by the response from the Air Force leadership,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said at his subcommittee’s markup of the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill. “Did they miss where the Chinese and the Russians have already reorganized space operations? The Chinese literally have a space force today. Yet the Air Force would continue to force space to compete with F-35s, and we know who’s going to win that competition.” Capitol under clouds

Rogers threatened to take the space mission away from the Air Force if it does not get on board with what he is trying to do.

“To be clear, I’m willing to work with the Air Force and the secretary and the chief to reform the national security space enterprise,” Rogers said. “But at the end of the day, whether or not they’re in the room when the decisions are made is their choice. They need to work with Congress to fix their problems with the national security space enterprise or we may need to take this mission totally away from the Air Force.”

Rogers and Rep. John Cooper (D-Tenn.), the ranking member of the strategic forces panel, unveiled the space corps proposal as part of the authorization bill June 20. They said the new service is needed to streamline the Air Force’s “crippling organizational and management structure” and make space a higher priority within the aviation-focused Air Force.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters June 21 that they oppose creating a space corps on the grounds that it would add complexity to their space efforts and slow their ability to adapt to an increasingly contested space domain.

“I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff,” Wilson said. “We need to simplify and not make it more complicated and bureaucratic.”

Rogers responded to Wilson’s comment by saying “the secretary should tell me where in this proposal it says she needs to add six more deputy chiefs of staff. If she can’t implement this proposal without creating six new deputy chiefs of staff, that’s on her. Maybe we need a space corps secretary instead of an Air Force secretary leading space.”

The Air Force recently announced it will create the position of deputy chief of staff for space operations to “integrate, normalize and elevate” its space operations. But HASC aides have said that the Air Force step falls far short of what is needed.

“We will not allow the status quo to continue,” Rogers said. The Department of Defense “cannot fix itself on this issue. Congress has to step in.”

Rogers told Defense Daily that he has discussed his proposal with “a couple senators and some staff” and that they share his concerns.

“They see the exact same problems we see,” Rogers said.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to begin marking up its version of the FY 2018 defense authorization bill the week of June 26-30.