WASHINGTON — In her first comments since the release of the conference agreement on the the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said service leaders are reviewing the language that would pave the way for the establishment of a Space Force under the Department of the Air Force.

“We are encouraged regarding the prospect of legislation that will establish a U.S. Space Force,” Barrett said in a statement.

The conference agreement will be up for a House vote on Dec. 11.

“We certainly appreciate the hard work and bipartisan support of the Congress and the administration that is bringing a separate service for space closer to reality,” said Barrett. “We are reviewing the draft legislation and look forward to moving out smartly once legislation is passed by the Congress and signed by the President.”

Barrett said Dec. 7 at the Reagan National Defense Forum that Air Force leaders have set up a “war room” to plan the next steps once the Space Force legislation is signed. According to sources, the planning cell was renamed “launch room” and it’s where efforts are coordinated with regard to the Space Force organization, public rollout plan and countless other issues that the Air Force will have to sort through as it moves to stand up a separate service.

The NDAA provides the Secretary of the Air Force with the authority to transfer Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force. But it does not approve the hiring of new people. The bill also directs a major realignment of space acquisitions.

The conference agreement creates a Chief of Space Operations (CSO) for the U.S. Space Force who will report directly to the Secretary of the Air Force and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the first year, the commander of U.S. Space Command Gen. John Raymond would be dual-hatted as CSO of the Space Force.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...