Members of Congress have laid the groundwork for the U.S Air Force to establish a new branch of the military, known as a Space Corps, by January of 2019.
The proposal came from Congressmen Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Jim Cooper. D-Tenn., the top representatives of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which oversees military space operations. They introduced the legislation into the House Armed Services Committee National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday.
According to a joint statement by Rogers and Cooper, the Space Corps would reorganize the national security space enterprise “to ensure prioritization of the space domain by creating a U.S. Space Corps as a separate military service within the Department of the Air Force and under the civilian leadership of the Secretary of the Air Force.”
"There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding," the statement said, "We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems."
Rogers told Space News “As I’ve been chairing this subcommittee for the last four years, we have seen time and again that our ability to meet new challenges in space is lethargic at best.”
Space would fall under the command of its own chief, equal in rank to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who would sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and answer to the Secretary of the Air Force.
But Air Force leaders are rejecting the plan. “The Pentagon is complicated enough,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters following her testimony in front of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money. If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”
An Air Force statement, sent to Fox News on Wilson’s behalf, said, "I could not agree more that now is the time to address the threats our nation faces in space, which is why the Air Force has proposed a 20 percent increase in space funding in this year's budget, and announced last week a reorganization that integrates, elevates and normalizes space."
When Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein was asked at a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing, “some space advocates these days are calling for space corps, something like the structure of the Marines within the Navy. Do you support that, or do you think we should take a pass?” he responded “Sir, I do not support it at this time in our history” and went on to say “Whether there is a time in our future when we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we probably ought to keep that dialogue open. But right now, I think it would actually move us in the wrong direction and slow us down from where we need to go.”
Fox News went back to Rogers and Cooper about the Air Force opposition to their legislation. Cooper did not return a request for comment and Rogers sent a statement saying:
“My subcommittee has studied this issue for months. Congressman Cooper and I have met with space experts and space leaders and have concluded that Congress must intervene to help address the significant flaws in the organization and management of our national security space. I am outraged by the response from the Air Force leadership – I know creating the Space Corps will take work, but they are completely out of touch if they truly believe the U.S. can keep up with China or Russia if we do not do move forward with Space Corps. In fact, China and Russia are also ahead of us in terms of reorganizing their military space capabilities. The United States will fall further behind because space is the future for warfare.”
The Air Force already has a Space Command, but if this new legislation makes it through votes in the House and Senate, and is signed into law by the president, then the U.S. will have “a separate military service responsible for national security space programs for which the Air Force is today responsible.”