Space Corps Survives Amendment Challenge at NDAA Markup

The 45th Space Wing launched the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency missile-warning satellite onboard an Atlas V launch vehicle in 2010. Air Force photo.

The provision establishing a separate Space Corps within the Air Force survived a challenge at the House Armed Services Committee’s FY18 National Defense Authorization Act markup Wednesday and will be included in the full legislation.

The HASC strategic forces subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), had included the provision in its markup. During the full committee markup Wednesday, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) offered an amendment “to remove the provisions that establish a Space Corps and call instead for a study on the establishment of a Space Corps.”

Turner told the committee, “this mark is asking us to do something we have not done since 1947,” that is, to add another military service. “We’re expanding the President’s Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said, referring to the bill’s provision that the new Chief of Staff of the Space Corps would be a member of the JCS.

Turner said that for a consideration of such gravity, “several discussions” is not enough. “Certainly, I agree with the chairman on the failures in the space sub-program under the Air Force,” Turner continued, but “we’re only going to solve it by empowering the Air Force, funding the Air Force, and holding the administration accountable.” As such, he called for a delay of the reorganization and an in-depth study of the formation of a separate Space Corps.

Rogers replied that the subcommittee had been “incredibly deliberative” in its work on the Space Corps. Not only had they “started working on this last September as a committee, vigorously,” Rogers said, but the idea itself is as old as the 2001 Rumsfeld Commission. Rogers said the idea was again recommended in the 2008 Allard Commission and that three reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had reached the same conclusion.

“This is not a time for delay,” Rogers insisted. “This is a time for action, unless we want to let the Chinese and Russians pass us in capability.”

The committee chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) agreed, saying “I believe there are some changes that the Pentagon cannot make on their own, and it’s our job to make those changes.” He compared the creation of a Space Corps to the creation of the Air Force and of the Department of Defense. “There are times when an issue becomes developed and ripe and it is our responsibility to act,” he insisted. “This is the time for us to act.”

Ranking member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) echoed the chair’s comments.

“Whether we like it or not, space is the new warfighting domain,” he said, “and space has not been given adequate priority by our friends in the Air Force.” He called upon the committee to rise to the challenge set before them. “This is a historic moment for this committee, and I am proud of it.”

This story has been updated.