Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have agreed to language that would create a streamlined Space Force — a top priority of President Donald Trump’s — and plan to insert it as an amendment to the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill on Wednesday.
The draft version of the bill known as the chairman’s mark did not include language on Space Force, which appeared to indicate that House Armed Services Democrats were not on board with authorizing Space Force in their version of the massive Pentagon policy bill.
But Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., told reporters Monday that there was bipartisan agreement on the issue. Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala. — architects of the committee’s 2018 proposal to create a Space Corps within the Air Force — had gone back and forth on the specifics, Smith said.
“By the time we got to an agreement, it was too late to put it into the original mark,” Smith said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast just two days ahead of his panel’s marathon markup.
The bipartisan agreement calls for a single four-star general in charge of Space Force, compared with the three four-star generals the administration envisioned. It would also have fewer personnel transferred from other services into the Space Force, Smith said.
“The main difference from the administration’s approach is less bureaucracy,” Smith said.
This is largely the same plan the committee endorsed in the House’s version of the 2018 NDAA, he said. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which has endorsed Trump’s plan, rejected Space Corps and the language did not make it into the final bill.
“I think the Air Force has not done a particularly good job of managing space,” in part because space is a lower priority for the Air Force than nuclear weapons, air superiority, and bombers, and then space, Smith said.
“I don’t trust the Air Force, on its own, within its existing structure, to properly prioritize space,” he said.
Smith, who supported Space Corps, said he wants lawmakers to look past the political baggage attached to the proposal, thanks in large part to Trump’s involvement.
“He grabbed onto it, and talked about it, but this isn’t about him,” Smith said. “I want to organize our assets in space the most efficient way possible.”