WASHINGTON — Congress’ original proponent of a separate space branch of the military expects the Pentagon to follow the president’s lead and move quickly to create a Space Force.
The next step in the process will be a report due August 1 from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
“This is what I expect to happen,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said on Thursday at a Mitchell Institute breakfast event on Capitol Hill. His committee wants to see Shanahan’s report that is due August 1. “And I’m pretty sure it’s going to say, ‘We think we need to go past the Space Corps and have a Space Force because the commander in chief said that’s what he wants.’”
Rogers is chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. His proposal to create a Space Corps fell short last year due to lack of support in the Senate and resistance from the Defense Department. President Trump on Monday ordered the Pentagon to start organizing a separate Space Force.
Whether you call the new branch a Space Corps or a Space Force is not all that important, said Rogers. His bill would have created a Space Corps under the Department of the Air Force, whereas Trump took it a step further and asked for a Space Force that would be an entirely separate military service. “The president decided to go straight there, said Rogers. “I’m fine with that.”
“I want to get space out of the Air Force bureaucracy and out of a subordinate position,” Rogers insisted.
In last year’s defense policy bill, Congress instructed Shanahan to “do an assessment and report back to us on whether we need this or not,” Rogers said. That is the report that is due in August. “We also wanted to know what it would look like, how it would be implemented, and the cost,” Rogers added. That is the subject of a separate study by the Center for Naval Analyses that is due in December.
“The president instructed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to make it happen. And the chairman said he would,” Rogers said. Only Congress has the authority to reorganize the military or create a new service, but Rogers nonetheless expects the Pentagon to come forward with a plan over the next several months to help Congress prepare language for next year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
Rogers said he has “a lot of confidence” that the study commissioned by Shanahan will provide a roadmap to design a Space Force, “to do it responsibly,” he said. “We don’t need to be too disruptive.” He would like to see in the December report a “reasonable implementation period” and the estimated cost.
“Then we’ll proceed in Congress to start to prepare the statutory work for the next NDAA to implement this,” he said. “We expect to stand up a segregated service.”
Asked whether the military can afford this, “I don’t foresee it to be significantly more expensive than what we’re doing now,” Rogers said. A Space Force would require its own secretariat and a new service structure, making it more expensive than a Corps. “Other than that, we are taking the existing personnel, both military and civilian, and segregating them, their money, and their mission,” he said. “We want to develop a culture that is going to be focused on space dominance.”
Rogers said it “drives him nuts” that most Americans know nothing about the threats the nation faces in space. “People that were not paying attention think the president’s Space Force idea came out of nowhere. No. The Congress spent the last three years studying this. And we decided we have to do things dramatically different.”