Donovan Pushing to Give Space Force Stronger Legal Authorities

Acting Air Force Secretary Matthew Donovan, shown on Sept. 10, 2018, argues Congress needs to reform Title X of US Code so a possible new Space Force can reach its full potential. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue.

The Pentagon is pressing lawmakers to amend existing law to call the Space Force a new military service within the Air Force so the organization can “unleash its full potential,” Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan said Aug. 20.

The Space Force requires changes to Title X of the US Code in order to be able to organize, train, and equip its members for space operations, Donovan said. These reforms will affect how money is budgeted and spent and how the force can use personnel, both from the Air Force and the other services.

The Senate version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization bill would redesignate Air Force Space Command as the Space Force, but keep the organization as a “component” of the Air Force. The House’s version of the bill, which calls for a Space Corps, goes further than the Senate and revises Title X to establish the new corps as an armed force.

“The current legislative provisions do not provide all the necessary authorities to establish a separate service and sixth branch of the US armed forces,” Donovan said at a National Space Council meeting. “The department is fully engaged with the defense authorizing committees to ensure that the final [fiscal 2020 defense policy bill] language explicitly includes the United States Space Force as an armed force with the necessary authorities in Title X, and thereby codifying it alongside its sister services in this bedrock law.”

The Trump administration seeks to create a Space Force as a separate entity in the Air Force as a first step toward eventually breaking it out a new department. Lawmakers will hash out differences between their legislative proposals in a conference committee over the coming weeks.