President Trump has between now and Jan. 20, 2019 to set the stage to make his 2018 Space Force initiative all it can be. The new House Democratic leadership seems likely to oppose him on every front, including this important initiative.
And there is like-minded skepticism in the public sector to back them up.
For example, as noted by Marina Koren in a recent Atlantic article, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the anticipated new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has openly opposed the idea growing out of a 2017 initiative by Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., — then the chairman and ranking member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the HASC.
Presumably, their roles will be reversed going forward.
Their 2017 initiative led to legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018, calling for a report to Congress by the end of this year.
Their 2017 initiative led to legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018 NDAA (2018), calling for a report to Congress by the end of this year.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan briefed the White House National Space Council on its progress toward that end and indicated that the Pentagon is "moving out" on plans to create a Space Force.
Last August, Vice President Pence, who chairs of the National Space Council, released a report that included an extensive list of intended Trump administration actions to bolster the space force, including to restore a unified combatant command — the U.S. Space Command that was abandoned in 2002 after almost two decades of operation; and to create:
- A Space Operations Force to support the U.S. Space Command;
- A joint Space Development Agency to ensure the Space Force has cutting-edge warfighting capabilities; and
- A new civilian position at the U.S. Defense Department (DOD), an assistant secretary of defense for Space, reporting to the secretary of defense, with responsibility and accountability for standing up and scaling up the U.S. Department of the Space Force.
But the administration cannot order the creation of a new military department without congressional approval. And the Pentagon’s funding must be authorized and appropriated by congress in any case.
Secretary Shanahan indicated a legislative proposal will be submitted to Congress as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget process, including the above administration initiatives that have been approved by the Space Council.
Secretary Shanahan has indicated that the administration’s plan for FY 2020 budget request will also call on congress to authorize and fund the Space Force as a separate and distinct branch of the military whose mission will be to organize, train, and equip combat space forces.
That’s where the main rub will come in.
Preparation for this submission also will include reviews by the National Space Council and the National Security Council (NSC) of existing space operational authorities for meeting associated national security objectives. This review must be informed by the Pentagon’s assessment of the authorities required as well as collaboration with the Intelligence Community.
Understand that the Trump administration is not standing still in responding to past congressional directions. For example, Air Force Space Command has taken over the Defense Department’s procurement of commercial space communications services. Moreover, recent advances are improving ground system support for our military systems. These initiatives will significantly improve the support for military needs.
Moreover, Secretary Shanahan has emphasized the Pentagon is moving ahead with the initiation of a Joint Space Development Agency, which should markedly reduce costs of duplicative service activities. Such considerations back up his repeated rejection of early excessive USAF cost estimates for a separate Space Force, which caused initial opposition on Capitol Hill.
Hopefully, the administration’s initiatives and the ongoing reviews for next year’s budget request will also support the initiatives of Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who sponsored important legislation in the NDAA (2019) directing the Pentagon to provide a plan to build a space based interceptor system.
Before the president’s budget request for 2020 is submitted to congress, it will go to the president for final approval.
While considering these matters — including likely resistance from the House leadership, he no doubt will also take into account the strengthened role of the Senate, especially by Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., now Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and a counterweight to HASC Chairman Smith.
These matters should receive serious attention by all the "powers that be" during the coming Lame Duck session of the current Congress, befitting the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."
No pun intended, as the growing Chinese threat in space is all too real.
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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