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Donley, Kehler Join Anti-Space Corps Chorus While House Moves Ahead

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jul-2017
Updated: 17-Jul-2017 06:49 AM

On Friday, the House passed legislation that would create a Space Corps within the Air Force while a former Secretary of the Air Force and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) argued against it at a seminar across town.

Michael Donley served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2008-2013 as part of his 39 years of government service. Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) served of Commander of STRATCOM from 2011-2013 and Commander of Air Force Space Command from 2007-2011.  At a meeting sponsored by George Washington University's Space Policy Institute and the Aerospace Corporation, they echoed comments by current Air Force officials that now is not the right time to separate space from the rest of the warfighting force.  Instead, integrating space into the other warfighting domains -- land, sea, air and cyber -- is what's needed.

The bipartisan leadership of the House Armed Services Committee's (HASC's) Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), included the provision to create a U.S. Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 2810),   It would also create a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of STRATCOM.  They are ardent advocates for this reorganization as is HASC chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX). 

The White House, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein oppose it, as did other members of HASC during markup of the bill on June 28.  Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, introduced an amendment to remove the provision, but it was defeated by voice vote.  He attempted to bring the issue to the floor of the House for debate, but the House Rules Committee did not approve his amendment.  The bill passed the House on Friday with the provision intact.

Kehler said the proposed solution does not fit the problem, which is acquisition.  "That's why people are frustrated," not because of how DOD is organized.  "Most organizational change doesn't fix the problem and is a distraction," costs more than expected and soon changes again.  "The space enterprise is filled with examples of the wreckage of some of the other things we've tried."

The problem that needs to be solved is how to "posture ourselves to be prepared for conflict that extends into space" the same way we think about conflict extending into air or sea. "We know how to do this," Kehler insisted.  It is a matter of "the grunt work of joint warfighting" and the military services providing combatant commanders with "forces that can operate and accomplish their missions in the face of a contested domain."  Reorganization is not the answer.  "We have a warfighting organization in place today with all the authority and responsibility necessary.  It's called STRATCOM."

Donley agreed. "I don't favor this proposal.  It is the opposite of the trends we're trying to achieve" of integrating space into airspace and cyberspace.  The result will be more bureaucracy, "exactly what Congress has been telling the Department not to do."

Kehler summed it up by repeating that the problem is acquisition. "That's what we need to fix" and it's not magic. Many studies have been done.  "We know what's broken. Fix it."


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