Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein testify before House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces panel on June 21, 2017. Screenshot photo.
The Air Force may be required to establish a separate Space Corps within the service by 2019, according to the House strategic forces subcommittee markup of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, released Tuesday.
The new Space Corps would be headed by a Chief of Staff of the Space Corps—a four-star general who would be appointed to a six-year term, would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and would be “a co-equal of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.”
The markup would also move milestone decision authority (MDA) for space acquisition programs to the Secretary of the Air Force. The 2016 NDAA had given MDA for space to the Air Force Chief of Staff as part of a broad effort to streamline acquisition programs by pushing authorities down to individual services. Under the new markup, space MDA would remain within the Air Force but would move to the Secretary, whose role as the Principal Department of Defense Space Advisor (PDSA) would be eliminated.
Top Air Force leaders have spoken against the idea previously and reiterated their opposition on Wednesday. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told reporters after the hearing, according to Breaking Defense. “I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff,” she added.
Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein agreed, telling reporters that, “Now is not the time to build seams and segregate or separate. Now’s the time to further integrate.”
The markup also calls for the establishment of a new joint four-star Space Command by 2019 to be organized under US Strategic Command. The commander of the new US Space Command would “exercise command of joint space activities or missions,” in the language of the bill.
Finally, the markup requires an annual Space Flag training exercise “for space professionals to develop and test doctrine, concepts of operation, and tactics, techniques, and procedures.” The Air Force held an inaugural Space Flag event earlier this year, but space squadron commanders have asked for more regular, space-focused training.
The subcommittee meets Thursday to debate amendments to the markup, which will be added to the full NDAA ahead of the June 28 markup session with the entire House Armed Services Committee.
See also: Air Force and Congress at Odds Over How to Organize Space.