House Armed Services Committee exploring several paths to a Space Force

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HASC Chairman Thornberry is seeking data from the Pentagon to better understand the consequences of different approaches to creating a Space Force.

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wants the Pentagon to provide more precise details on how it would organize and fund a new military service for space. In an Oct. 4 letter, Chairman Mac Thornberry asks Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva to deliver the data by Nov. 16.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews, the committee lays out four different ways in which a Space Force could be formed. Thornberry says he wants additional information before the committee endorses any one approach.

The committee will explore four options:

A Space Corps model. This approach was embraced by the House in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. It envisions a separate military service organized under the Department of the Air Force rather than as a stand-alone department.
An enhanced version of the Space Corps model. This would add Army and Navy space components and the Missile Defense Agency.
An independent military department.
A Special Operations Command-based model. This would be a Space Force that, like U.S. SOCOM, has authorities to organize, train and equip for space capabilities but would be led by a senior civilian.

Thornberry says the committee needs data from the Pentagon to better understand the consequences of pursuing any of these four paths. “As Congress and the Administration consider how to best restructure the national security space enterprise and on what timeline, the Committee needs more detailed information on various options that have been proposed,” the letter says.

The Trump administration is expected to submit a legislative proposal early next year that would lay out a plan to stand up a new military service. “We look forward to receiving the Administration’s legislative proposal to establish a separate military department for space with the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2020,” Thornberry wrote. “But it is important for us to understand the benefits and challenges of a full range of options.”

The committee asked for the information to be sorted into four broad categories: Current and future resources (including billets, funding, infrastructure) to support each option. Changes that would be required to existing Defense Department authorities to make changes and what new legislation might be needed to “authorize changes to requirements and acquisition processes, service specific organizing training and equipping, and joint war fighting operations.” Thirdly, the committee wants “clarity on external relationships,” including differences in command and control relationships between each of the four alternative structures and the secretary of defense, the Joint Staff, the combatant commands, other services and defense agencies. The final item is the timeline for implementation for each of the four alternatives. That should include an “assessment of how to transfer existing resources and programs of record to each alternative structure.”