WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday the Trump administration’s Space Force proposal will not survive his panel because “it is too expensive and creates more bureaucracy.”
“It’s going to be different from what the White House proposed,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in remarks to a defense industry audience at a McAleese & Associates conference. “Three more four-star generals are not going to make us stronger in space.”
Smith said he would work with a bipartisan collection of colleagues on an alternative to the administration’s proposal overall.
The comments came a day after the Pentagon revealed its fiscal 2020 budget request that spends about $2 billion over five years on the Space Force and sees roughly 15,000 space-related personnel transfer from existing roles to the organization.
Smith, who will steer his committee’s annual defense policy bill and lead talks to reconcile it with the Senate’s version, was only the first lawmaker on Wednesday to raise concerns about the proposal. In the upper chamber, Sen. Dick Durbin, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, told Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson at a hearing on the service’s budget that the proposal must be “thoroughly vetted and carefully reviewed.”
“Is this in the best interest of America’s national defense, is it going to necessarily involve an investment in bureaucracy that comes with it that could be uncontrollable?” Durbin asked. “We need to make sure whatever we are doing, we are consciously avoiding overspending where it’s unnecessary, and spending on national defense in a thoughtful way.”
Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said he, too, had concerns about the long-term costs and “What do we gain out of it?”
“We’re Republicans and we’re asking a lot of questions too,” Shelby said. “I think we have to evaluate by critical analysis all this stuff.”
The proposal also stands up a headquarters, establishes U.S. Space Command and creates a Space Development Agency geared toward rapid acquisitions.
One aspect Smith warmed to was the development agency, as a means to protect the military’s satellite-based command-and-control infrastructure.
“We have $150 million for [the Space Development Agency], looking at how we make sure that our systems are robust, defensible, impenetrable preferably — making sure they’ll work right,” Smith said. “Because you shut down our entire national security apparatus now if you shut down our satellites, if we can’t communicate, if we can’t send the messages to all the different weapon systems that are supposed to work that way.”
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.