Mixed reactions to Senate Armed Services’ Space Force hearing

by

This article was first published in the SN Military.Space newsletter. If you would like to get our news and insights for national security space professionals every Tuesday, sign up here for your free subscription.

SN Military.Space Sandra Erwin

After last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Space Force odds are all over the place.

Proponents of the new branch were widely disappointed that Pentagon officials did not seem able to argue convincingly that this is a necessary reorganization to posture the U.S. to confront rising competitors. A source privately characterized the hearing as an “unmitigated disaster.” SASC Chairman Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) set the stage by asking the witnesses to explain how the Space Force helps address these challenges.“And he got terrible answers,” said the source, who is a proponent of the Space Force.

After watching the SASC hearing, defense industry consultant Jim McAleese, of McAleese & Associates, handicapped the field. His take: “It will be close, but the U.S. Space Force is likely to receive formal SASC support in May” when the committee is scheduled to mark up its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. His analysis:

  • Chairman Inhofe is undecided. He is a strong Air Force supporter but is a loyal Trump ally and will likely back Trump’s proposal
  • Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) agrees with DoD that the threats in space are real but believes the proposal creates a Space Force that is top heavy and lacking an essential piece, the NRO. However, he will likely support the Space Force in exchange for reinstatement of merit-service-protections for Space Force civilians.
  • Likely ‘yes’ votes: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
  • Likely ‘no’ votes: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
  • Could go either way: Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein shakes hands with Maj. Gen. William Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, March 21, 2019, as Goldfein arrives at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein shakes hands with Maj. Gen. William Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, March 21, 2019, as Goldfein arrives at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told SpaceNews in an interview on Friday that the Space Force proposal sent to Congress is an “80 percent solution” that would be refined over time. He said one of the challenges selling this proposal is that the Air Force today is doing a good job in space but the issue that Congress should debate is whether DoD is organized to win in the future.

Goldfein also talked about the first-ever air chiefs space conference he hosted in Colorado Springs last week. He said the key take-away is that the U.S. must work more closely with allies to share intelligence about what is happening in space and collectively help figure out norms of behavior in space to prevent a war where “everyone loses.” FULL STORY HERE

SpaceNews Terms & Conditions apply.