Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Credit: HASC

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on July 21 passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 by a vote of 295 to 125.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said this marked the 60th consecutive year the House has passed the NDAA. The Senate is scheduled to vote on its version of the NDAA later this week.

Several late amendments related to the Space Force and U.S. space policy made it into the bill.

  • Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) proposed giving the Space Development Agency special hiring authority to attract experts in science and engineering.
  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) recommended the Space Force use the same system and rank structure as the Navy.
  • Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) asked for a report on the effects of COVID-19 on the space industrial base and DoD space programs.
  • Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) added a requirement that the DoD space strategy include assessments of Iran and North Korea, and adds the Director of National Intelligence as a senior official who should participate in the development of the strategy.
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) asks for a DoD report on the “processes and procedures for identifying and securing frequency licenses for national security space ground assets.”

White House issues veto threat

The White House said President Trump will veto the NDAA over policy differences with the House version of the bill.

In a statement of administration policy issued July 21 by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the administration said the president’s main objection to the bill is language that would require the Pentagon to change the names of military bases named for Confederate military leaders.

The White House also objects to two space policy provisions from the House version of the NDAA.

The House bill directs the Pentagon to establish the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space and Strategic Deterrence Policy with responsibility for space, nuclear deterrence and missile defense. The committee said the realignment of nuclear deterrence, missile defense, and space policy under one assistant secretary would “streamline” the development of policies and acquisitions of new systems.

The administration “strongly objects to adding nuclear deterrence and missile defense responsibilities to the responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy,” the White House said.

Another provision passed by the House would give the Missile Defense Agency sole responsibility for the development of a sensor network to detect hypersonic missiles. The Pentagon wants that task to be shared with the Space Development Agency.

The Trump administration said it “agrees with the need to mature space-based sensing capabilities that could provide value for missile defense.” However it “objects to the requirement that the MDA be solely responsible for the development of the hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor payload because it would fragment space capabilities across multiple agencies.”

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...