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HASC Criticizes DOD Management of Space Programs, Wants Space Corps - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Jun-2017
Updated: 19-Jul-2017 10:43 PM

The Strategic Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) plans to require the creation of a U.S. Space Corps as a separate military service within the Air Force, and a U.S. Space Command within U.S. Strategic Command.  It insists such steps are required to address an erosion of the strategic advantages the United States derives from national security space systems. [UPDATE:  HASC debated the proposal and defeated a Turner amendment to remove it.  The White House opposed it.  Nonetheless, the House passed the bill on July 14 with this provision intact.]

HASC's subcommittees are marking up their portions of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. The Strategic Forces subcommittee oversees most national security space programs and released a draft of its proposal today.  The markup is scheduled for Thursday morning and will be webcast.

In a joint press release, subcommittee chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and ranking member Jim Cooper (D-TN) said there "is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding.  Not only are there developments by adversaries, but we are imposing upon the national security space enterprise a crippling organizational and management structure and an acquisition system that has led to delays and cost-overruns."

Efforts to reform defense acquisition in general, and for space systems specifically, have been underway for many years.  Congress and DOD agree that a better system is needed, but not on how to solve the problem. 

In October 2015, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work created a new position of Principal DOD Space Advisor (PDSA) to be filled by the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) to strengthen the leadership of the space enterprise within the department.   SecAF Deborah Lee James was the first to hold that position, which is now held by the new SecAF Heather Wilson.

In April of this year, Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow announced that the Air Force would reorganize its own space leadership team and create a new "A-11" deputy chief of staff position to be filled by a three-star general.  Wilson made it official on June 16.  The new position will be Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations and the new directorate will begin operating in August.

At several hearings this year, Air Force officials have repeated the refrain that space no longer is a benign environment, but a warfighting domain.  At a May 17 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein was asked if he thought it was time to create a Space Corps analogous to the Marine Corps to better focus attention and resources on what is needed for space.  He said no, that the timing is not right.  "Anything that leads to separating space instead of integrating it" into the overall military framework would "slow us down." 

That line of reasoning obviously did not hold sway with the HASC subcommittee.  Rogers and Cooper chastised DOD for "being unable to take the measures necessary to address these problems effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scope of its problems.  Thus, Congress has to step in."

The subcommittee's draft bill would create a U.S. Space Corps as a separate military service within the Air Force, analogous to the Marine Corps' position within the Department of the Navy.  The Space Corps would be responsible for national security space programs currently overseen by the Air Force and would be under the civilian leadership of the SecAF.  The draft bill would also establish a U.S. Space Command as a subordinate unified command within U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), "elevating the space mission to a four-star command and improving the integration of space forces."  USSTRATCOM itself is headed by a four-star general officer, currently Air Force Gen. John Hyten.  He previously was Commander of Air Force Space Command, also a four-star position, currently filled by Gen. John "Jay" Raymond.  Whether adding another four-star position as the subcommittee wants, and/or the three-star position the Air Force wants, will clarify responsibilities and streamline decision-making is an open question.

The HASC subcommittee's draft would also:

  • prohibit the Secretary of Defense from entering into contracts for satellite services that pose a cybersecurity threat, or services provided by satellites launched from covered foreign countries, or launched by launch vehicles designed or manufactured by covered foreign countries (meaning countries described in section 1261(c)(2) of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act -- China, North Korea or any state sponsor of terrorism -- plus Russia);
  • require development and implementation of a plan to enhance the resilience of GPS capacity, including adding the capability to receive signals from Europe's Galileo and Japan's QZSS satellites;
  • establish an annual "Space Flag" training event for space professionals to develop and test doctrine, concepts of operations, and tactics, techniques, and procedures. coordinated among the Secretary of Defense, Commander, Air Force Space Command, Commander, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and Commander, Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command;
  • extend the pilot program for commercial weather data for another year; and
  • express the sense of Congress on the importance of a space-based missile defense layer.

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