The House Armed Services Committee marks up the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 June 12, 2019. Credit: HASC

WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee voted to establish a United States Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force. The vote came in the overnight hours Thursday. The committee began its markup of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday morning. After a nearly 21-hour session, the committee passed the NDAA 33-24.

The Space Corps amendment was offered by the HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee leaders Chairman Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). The proposal is similar to what the committee proposed in the 2018 NDAA, including the name of the new space service, U.S. Space Corps, rather than the Trump administration’s preferred name, U.S. Space Force.

Like the Marine Corps, the Space Corps would be led by a four-star Commandant who would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The HASC amendment will have to be reconciled with the language in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2020 NDAA, which authorizes a U.S. Space Force led by a four-star Commander.

According to the Cooper-Rogers amendment:

• The Space Corps will have personnel and assets transferred by the Air Force but may not include the personnel or assets of the National Reconnaissance Office or the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

• The Space Corps will he organized, trained, and equipped to provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from and to space. The Space Corps will “protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression, from and to space and conduct space operations.”

• The secretary of the Air Force may establish a separate, alternative acquisition system for defense space acquisitions. The Deputy Secretary of Defense will submit the plan to the congressional defense committees. The alternative acquisition system will cover defense space acquisitions except those overseen by the intelligence community.

• The secretary of defense can transfer to the Space Corps “functions, assets and obligations of the space elements of the Air Force (including all property, records, installations, activities, facilities, agencies and projects). Personnel that can be transferred include commissioned officers and enlisted members of the space elements of the Air Force.

• While the SASC language sets a one-year transition period for the Space Force to figure out its organization, the HASC bill says the transition period begins on January 1, 2021; and ends not later than December 31, 2023.

• The secretary of defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report that includes a detailed plan for the organizational structure of the Space Corps, and how the Space Corps will coordinate with the United States Space Command, the Space Development Agency, and other space elements of the armed forces.

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...