Senate Approves $750 Billion Defense Policy Bill

The Senate passed a $750 billion defense policy bill in an 86-8 vote on June 27, 2019. Photo by the Architect of the Capitol via Facebook.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $750 billion defense policy bill with a vote of 86-8 on June 27, setting up further debate on the need for a new Space Force and exactly what that organization would look like.

The Senate legislation looks to redesignate Air Force Space Command as United States Space Force, to be led by a four-star commander who will be appointed to serve for a four-year term. It also creates a presidentially nominated, Senate-confirmed civilian “principal assistant to the secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration,” which would replace the existing principal assistant for space. That person would become the senior space acquisition executive responsible for buying and integrating all of the service’s space systems and programs, meaning the Air Force’s acquisition chief would give up those duties.

While the House has yet to pass its version of the 2020 defense policy bill, the House Armed Services Committee on June 13 backed the creation of a Space Corps, which would be led by a Senate-confirmed, four-star commandant who reports to the Air Force Secretary. The House Appropriations Committee, on the other hand, provided just $15 million to continue studying the “purpose and structure of a Space Force and alternative organizational constructs.”

The Senate’s version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act also includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for troops, “the largest in a decade,” according to a joint statement from Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.). And it looks to modernize military technology by investing in artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and cyber warfighting capabilities.

“Today’s strong bipartisan vote shows our commitment to our constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense,” Inhofe said.

Reed added, “It makes critical investments in emerging technologies and a stronger cyber framework. The NDAA also includes needed reforms to help fix and improve on-base housing for military families.”