WASHINGTON ― The House Armed Services Committee approved a new military branch for space early Thursday.
The panel unanimously adopted the measure by a voice vote after debating for less than an hour. It was offered by Strategic Forces Subommittee chairman Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who first offered the idea of a sixth branch two years ago.
“So the Space Corps is as close as we could make it to the proposal that passed this committee overwhelmingly,” Cooper said.
“It is not a $13 billion expenditure, a gold-plated plan like had been proposed to us by the secretary of the Air Force. It is instead a reorganization so that space professionals can be properly recognized for their skill and ability and promoted.”
Rogers said the amendment is “almost identical to what passed out of this committee nearly unanimously ― and it was essential do be done.”
A one-time skeptic of a new space branch, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Mike Turner, endorsed the proposal, which he said was in line with “Donald Trump’s vision.”
The language aims to establish a Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force, with its own streamlined acquisition system, a four-star commandant on the Joint Chiefs, and a civilian secretary.
It would not fold in the National Reconnaissance Office.
The defense secretary would be required to provide a report on its structure and personnel needs by 2021. Rogers called it “an evolving product over the next four or five years.”
The Trump administration and Space Force proponents have argued a dedicated service is needed to counter Chinese and Russian threats to America’s space-based assets for satellite communications; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as GPS.
The committee’s approach differs from Senate authorizers, whose bill backs the formation of a new service, fully funded at $72.4 million. Still, its proposed structure differs from the White House’s legislative proposal.
The House and Senate are expected to reconcile their competing versions of the bill before it can pass Congress.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.