WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee in a late-night vote June 21 approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 by a vote of 58-1 after a marathon markup session.

Only Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) voted against the bill.

More than 800 amendments were negotiated during the 17-hour markup. The annual defense policy bill now heads to the House floor.

The committee approved the proposed bill from the HASC strategic forces subcommittee that includes several space policy provisions, such as requiring DoD to share threat intelligence with commercial satellite operators. It also approved language to establish a Space National Guard. 

Fight over U.S. Space Command relocation

The contentious battle over the proposed relocation of U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama surfaced during the markup. 

One of the provisions in the proposed bill from HASC Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), known as the chairman’s mark, was challenged by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). Lamborn sought to strip Rogers’ language that prevents U.S. Space Command from spending money on new or improved facilities at its current headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, until the Secretary of the Air Force delivers a report on the selection of a permanent location.

Facing pushback from Rogers and other Alabama lawmakers, Lamborn withdrew his amendment. 

Other amendments adopted by HASC on space policy and programs

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) introduced a bill allowing the Space Force to charge commercial space companies for indirect costs associated with launch activities at government ranges.

The provision allows the Space Force to charge commercial launch companies for indirect costs associated with launch operations such as infrastructure upgrades. 

The debate over how to fund spaceport improvements has gathered steam in recent years as commercial activities have ramped up at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Space Force officials have called on Congress to authorize the ranges to be operated like airports. Under current law, DoD is responsible for operating and maintaining the ranges and cannot accept private funding for infrastructure upgrades.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) directed the Space Force to provide a report on the “technical maturity, cost, benefits, and risks associated with fielding a high-power megawatt nuclear-electric power and propulsion asset in space.”

Wilson’s amendment highlights the “need for satellite power systems that have significant maneuver capability … and that nuclear power is a technology that adversary nations are pursuing to address this.”

“Recognizing that nuclear-electric power designs offer far greater propellent efficiency and electrical power than nuclear-thermal processes, the committee is concerned the Department has historically underinvested in this segment,” the amendment says. 

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...