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Senate, House Disagree on Creation of U.S. Space Corps, NDAA Priorities

The House Armed Services Committee voted down an amendment that would have halted the creation of a U.S. Space Corps and instead moved forward with the provision as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which passed late Wednesday night.

The provision creates a separate military branch for space operations. The U.S. Air Force opposes the creation of a Space Corps on the grounds that it will add unnecessary bureaucracy, the Hill reports. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said it needlessly adds “more boxes to the organization.”  Outgoing Undersecretary Lisa Disbrow told Defense One, “now’s not the time.”

Still, the House pressed forward with its plan to create a separate uniformed service that would report to the Air Force secretary, just as the Marine Corps reports to civilian leadership in the Navy, reports Defense One.

“We have the greatest air force the world has ever seen, because their number one mission when they come to work every day is air dominance … [but] you can’t have two number one missions,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. “If you want to make space professionals the best they can be, they need to come to work every day knowing space dominance is the number one mission. That culture can only be bred if we segregate them, properly resource them, educate and develop them.”

“It has been painfully apparent from the briefings that we’ve gotten from our general officers that both Russia and China have nearly caught us in space capabilities and are on the path to surpass us soon,” said Rogers. “It would be legislative malpractice for us to delay this.”

While both the House and Senate Armed Services committees want changes to the Pentagon’s space operations, there’s disagreement on how those changes should be made.

The Senate Armed Services Committee isn’t calling for a Space Force in its version of the NDAA; and is instead stressing the importance of cyber warfare and a more conservative approach to spending.

The Senate wants the Chief Information Warfare Officer at the Pentagon to oversee management of space, cyber and electronic warfare and “assume responsibility for all matters relating to the information environment of the DoD, including cybersecurity and cyber warfare, space and space launch systems, electronic warfare, and the electromagnetic spectrum,” the Senate’s summary states. The position would be appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and report directly to the defense secretary.

Currently, the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer functions similarly to the CIO at other federal agencies. The Senate wants to split the job into two because of the added responsibilities that the war-fighting component adds, a Senate Armed Services committee aide told Defense One.

“It’s really a recognition that cyberspace, space, and information have all kind of coalesced and have come to an area where they all are dominating the regime as a whole, but aren’t getting the level of focus that’s required from each individual service,” Senate Armed Services Committee aides said.

The Senate bill does not ramp up force strength to the degree that the House bill does, despite its slight funding boost.

The Senate version calls for a number of staff cuts, including requiring the Pentagon to reduce the number of deputy assistant secretaries of defense by 20 percent and continue to cut the number of Senior Executive Service personnel by around 10 percent. The Senate committee also wants one assistant secretary from each military department removed.

The Senate bill authorizes a total of $700 billion for the DoD, with about $640 billion of that is in base budget spending. Overseas contingency operations, or OCO, receive $62 billion in the Senate’s version. The Senate doesn’t address base realignment and closure (BRAC. ) Their bill authorizes a 2.1 percent increase in pay for members of the military, in contrast to the 2.4 percent House increase.

From Federal News Radio:

The Senate increases the Army active duty strength by 5,000 and adds another 1,000 to the guard and reserve.

It also adds 1,000 more Marines than what the president requested in his budget.

The other services get the increase the president requested: 4,100 active in the Air Force and 4,000 in the Navy.

The House bill adds 10,000 Army active duty and 7,000 guard and reserve. It marks the rest of the services to the president’s request.

House and Senate will conference to obtain a unified NDAA.

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