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SASC Wants New Chief Information Warfare Officer With Authority Over Space

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Jul-2017
Updated: 11-Jul-2017 11:33 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) today released the text of the bill and report for its version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Unlike its House counterpart, SASC completed all its subcommittee and full committee markups in closed session, so this is the first time details have emerged.  Although the bill does not create a Space Corps like the House bill proposes, it has its own plan for dramatic change in how space programs are handled within DOD.

Section 902 would create the position of Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense (SecDef).   The CIWO would serve as the Principal Cyber Advisor to the SecDef and the Principal DOD Space Advisor (PDSA). 

Both positions already exist. The Principal Cyber Advisor (PCA) was created by Congress in the FY2014 NDAA.  The position is filled by a deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy, though it is vacant at the moment.

The PDSA position was created by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work in October 2015 and is filled by the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF).  The office almost immediately came under criticism from Congress.  In the FY2016 NDAA, SASC required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the effectiveness of the office.  GAO concluded in a July 27, 2016 report that it was too early to tell, but skepticism remained.  SecAF Deborah Lee James was the first PDSA and there was speculation she might be the last as well.  However, current SecAF Heather Wilson now has the job.

Today's bill (S. 1519) and report (S. Rept. 115-125) make clear that SASC still is not convinced that PCA and PDSA are solving the problems.  SASC's concern is that in three areas -- information, space, and cyber -- no individual has the authority to set priorities. As the report explains:

"The committee has concerns that the existing organizational construct and resourcing authorities within [DOD] for space, cyber, and information are not commensurate with the organizational structure and resourcing required to meet the demands of 21st century warfare. ... Until there is an official in the [DOD] who can prioritize these missions, the committee is concerned that the priorities for space, cyber, and information will never receive the resourcing and senior level attention necessary to compete against the parochial interests of each individual Service."

The CIWO would have a very broad portfolio. 

"The CIWO would have the authority to establish policy for and direct the secretaries of the military departments and the heads of all other elements of the Department on matters concerning: (1) Space and space launch systems; (2) Communications networks and information technology (other than business systems); (3) National Security Systems; (4) Information assurance and cybersecurity; (5) Electronic warfare and cyber warfare; (6) Nuclear command and control and senior leadership communications systems; (7) Command and Control systems and networks; (8) The electromagnetic spectrum; (9) Positioning, navigation, and timing; and (10) Any other matters assigned to the Chief Information Officer of the [DOD] not related to business systems or management, ..."

Separately, the bill would require the Commander of Air Force Space Command to serve a term of at least 6 years in order to provide continuity of leadership similar to that for the Navy's nuclear propulsion program and strategic systems program.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) also is proposing a major reorganization, although it is focused on space, not a combination of space, cyber and information. 

Its approach is entirely different, proposing creation of a Space Corps within the Air Force, and a U.S. Space Command within U.S. Strategic Command.  The House provision is very controversial.  It is strongly supported by the chairman and ranking member of HASC's Strategic Forces subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), as well as full committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX).  During markup of the bill at full committee on June 28, however, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of that subcommittee, offered an amendment to delete the provision on the basis that it is premature and more deliberation is needed.  The amendment failed on a voice vote.  Turner has proposed it again for debate by the full House.  The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow to decide which amendments will be permitted.

What is clear is that both committees want dramatic changes in how space programs and policy are handled at DOD, but they have very different solutions.  Finding a compromise between the two chambers will be challenging enough, but the bill also will have to be signed by the President, so DOD will have its own say in the matter.


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