HASC Chairman: Space Force has bigger worries than having to use Navy ranks

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Chairman Adam Smith said Space Force leaders so far have not pushed back against Rep. Crenshaw's 'Starfleet' amendment

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Space Force leaders so far have not pushed back against proposed legislation that would require the space service to use the Navy’s rank structure.

The Space Force “has not contacted me directly” about this issue, HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Oct. 21 during a call with reporters. 

Smith said he did not consider this a front-burner issue, and he commended the Space Force for not engaging lawmakers about the amendment even though service leaders are known to be opposed to using naval ranks. “That tells me their priorities are in the right place,” Smith said. 

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) introduced legislation nicknamed the “Starfleet amendment” which was adopted in the House version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The proposal will be debated later this year in a House and Senate conference. The Senate would have to support the amendment for it to become law. Smith said he expects the NDAA to be passed in December. 

Smith said the Space Force should stay focused on its responsibilities to protect space assets and build capabilities. “There are more important issues” than having to use Navy ranks, he said. “Although you have to appreciate William Shatner” for shining a spotlight on this. 

Shatner called on the Space Force to adopt the Star Trek naval ranks for its officers and enlisted personnel in an op-ed published Aug. 26 by Military Times. Shatner argued that space ships are led by captains, not colonels.

In recent public appearances, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, the senior enlisted advisor of the Space Force, said the service will continue to use the Air Force rank structure until this issue is resolved in the legislative process. He said the Space Force will be ready to implement whatever Congress decides.