WASHINGTON – The House Armed Services Committee approved the establishment of a new branch of the United States military as part of the National Defense Authorization Act by a voice vote early Thursday morning.
The committee moved to create the United States Space Corps (USSC) to operate as an independent military entity under the United States Air Force (USAF), in the same way that the Marines (USMC) operate under the Navy (USN).
The amendments co-sponsor, Rep. Jim Cooper, who long spearheaded the Space Force concept within the House, said “The Space Corps is as close as we could make it to the proposal that passed this committee overwhelmingly,” referencing the original military space concept passed in the House in 2017. “It’s not a $13 billion expenditure, a gold-plated plan like had been proposed to us by the secretary of the Air Force. It is instead a reorganization so that the space professionals can be properly recognized for their skill and ability and promoted.”
The proposal would create a new commandant of the Space Corps, who would join the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Initially, only space personnel from the Air Force (USAF) would be moved over, with the ability for Navy (USN) and Army (USA) to volunteer to move into the new service.
“This is the initial standing up of the service. We can come back next year and look at bringing those professionals in,” Rogers said of requiring Navy and Army space personnel to move. “This is going to be an evolving product over the next four to five years and we’re going to have time to deal with those.”
Before Space Corps becomes a reality, however, the proposal will have to survive the House floor.
It will also have to be reconciled with the Senate version of the NDAA, which would create a Space Force within the Department of the Air Force but has some differences with the House NDAA in the details.
Why Do We the USSC?
According to a report prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there were three major organizational issues with space, which were also identified by a number of studies and congressional commissions that would be addressed by an independent Space Force. These reasons are listed as:
Split Acquisitions Responsibility
The responsibility for space acquisitions is fragmented among approximately 60 different organizations within the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. Within the military services, approximately 80% of the space budget is invested in the Air Force, but other components are located within the Army and Navy, including satellites and space personnel. Moreover, it was reported that the classified military intelligence space budget of the National Reconnaissance Office and other intelligence agencies may rival that of the Air Force.
This split of acquisitions and budgetary authorities between 60 different organizations results in no single organization having overall authority or leadership for space, consequently resulting in slower decision making, uncoordinated acquisitions efforts, and a lack of accountability for over-budget or over-schedule programs.
Split Space Workforce
Space personnel, much like space acquisitions, are scattered across the United States Armed Forces and Intelligence Community, with too small a number of individuals in most organizations to create a viable career track for space professionals. This is compounded by the frequent rotation of personnel in and out of space billets every few years, which prevents individuals from becoming familiar with the space domain.
The traditional role of a military service is to organize personnel into domain-focused communities to develop domain-focused doctrine, strategy, and policies. This is done by the Army for land domain, the Navy for the maritime domain, and the Air Force for the air domain. The current services organize personnel and doctrine around their respective domains. Currently, there is no such organization for space, which leaves the domain split and unstable.
Current Military Services’ Conflict of Interest on Space
The current military services, the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, are all organized and aligned primarily to prosecute war in their native domains of the land, maritime, and air, with space being seen as a secondary support function. This conflict of interest has stymied the growth of space professionals. For instance, the Air Force has long been vocal about the fact that the other services place requirements upon the space systems that the Air Force operates without providing any of the funding. It, however, does not take this approach to air assets that support the other services.
When the military services are forced to choose between space and their primary domain, it has historically been demonstrated that they chose their primary domain, whether it be the land, maritime, or air. For instance, between FY 2010 and 2014, the Air Force budget for aircraft and space systems both decreased by 1/3, but when the budget began to rise again, aircraft procurement rose by 50%, while space procurement continued to decline by another 17% in an environment of rising budgets. It has been noted that the most powerful institutions in national security are the military services, yet there is no military service dedicated to promote military space activities.
It would not fold in the National Reconnaissance Office.
The defense secretary would be required to provide a report on its structure and personnel needs by 2021. Rogers called it “an evolving product over the next four or five years.”
The Trump administration and Space Force proponents have argued a dedicated service is needed to counter Chinese and Russian threats to America’s space-based assets for satellite communications; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as GPS.
The committee’s approach differs from Senate authorizers, whose bill backs the formation of a new service, fully funded at $72.4 million. Still, its proposed structure differs from the White House’s legislative proposal.
The House and Senate are expected to reconcile their competing versions of the bill before it can pass Congress.
While the move gained bipartisan support in the committee vote, it will have to survive a floor vote to be set in motion.
Role and Mission of USSC
Once established, the U.S. Space Corps is intended to become the lead military service for space operations, responsible for space doctrine, organization, training, matériel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policy.
The Space Corps would be organized with the missions of: Protecting the United States’ interests in space and the peaceful use of space for all responsible actors, consistent with all applicable law, to include international law; Ensuring the unfettered use of space for the United States’ national security and economic interests, as well of that for U.S. allies; To deter aggression against the United States, its allies, and interests from hostile acts in and from space; To ensure that space capabilities are integrated and available to all combatant commands; To project military power in, from, and to space in support of the U.S.’s interests; And to develop, maintain, and improve national security space professionals.
The Space Corps would develop forces for space situational awareness; satellite operations, and global, integrated, command and control of military space forces; global and theater military space operations to enable joint campaigns (to include missile warning); space support to land, air, naval, and cyber forces; spacelift and space range operations; space-based nuclear detonation detection; and prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations to achieve space superiority.
About the Author
Jeremy P Elder is a U.S. Army combat veteran and podcast producer and host. He is a proud father
and is the author of Topics of Heroes and its sequel Topics Too. Jeremy currently serves as the
Marketing Manager for Air Electro Inc.