The House Armed Services Committee has formally proposed the formation of a ‘Space Corps’, which would act as a distinct branch of the U.S. military under command of the Air Force, similar to the way the U.S. Marines operate within the Department of the Navy. Whom among us is ready to be a Space Marine?
The legislation has been drafted by a bipartisan effort and included in National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and was introduced with a statement by Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper and Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of the House Armed Services Committee, via Space News:
“There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding,” Rogers and Cooper said in a prepared statement. “We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems.”
“Thus, Congress has to step in,” the statement continues. “We must act now to fix national security space and put in place a foundation for defending space as a critical element of national security. Therefore, our Mark will require the creation, under the Secretary of the Air Force, of a new Space Corps, as a separate military service responsible for national security space programs for which the Air Force is today responsible. We view this as a first, but critical step, to fixing the National Security Space enterprise.”
The new ‘Space Corps’ would be under the civilian leadership of the Secretary of the Air Force, and would be commanded by a newly appointed position among the Joint Chiefs of Staff alongside the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, serving a six year command.
The NDAA legislation has yet to be approved by the full committee and would still need to move through the full federal legislative process before progressing.
The prospect of introducing a Space Corps has faced opposition from Air Force leadership, as cited by Space News:
Current Air Force leadership opposes setting up a Space Corps. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in May, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said he believes the move would only cause confusion.
“I don’t support it at this time,” the general said. “Right now, to get focused on a large organizational change would actually slow us down…Whether there’s a time in our future where we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we keep that dialog open, but right now I think it would actually move us backwards.”
The Air Force has been expanding its space operations, including mysterious ops with the X-37B unmanned spaceplane. It also requested a 20 percent increase in space operations funding in its budget, and plans “a reorganization that integrates, elevates and normalizes space,” according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson via Space News.
If the proposed legislation does make it through the committee, both legislative houses and is signed into law by the president, it calls for the new Space Corps to be established by January 1, 2019. Let’s just hope that, if it happens, it’s more Star Trek and not so much Moonraker.