Space Force or Space Corps? Competing Visions for a New Military Service
(Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies; issued June 27, 2019)
In 2018, President Trump requested that the U.S. military restructure its space offices and personnel to create a U.S. Space Force. Since then three competing visions for how the Department of Defense (DoD) should be restructured to better support its national security space enterprise have been crafted: one from the DoD itself and two from either chamber of Congress. This brief compares these three legislative proposals to create a new military service for space.

While not a new concept, the creation of a separate military service for space has gained significant momentum over the past few months. On February 28, 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) submitted to Congress a legislative proposal to create a new military service for space within the Department of the Air Force called the United States Space Force. Initially Congress was lukewarm on the idea, but the relevant committees took up the issue and held public hearings and private meetings with officials, military professionals, and outside experts to discuss the concept.

In May and June 2019, the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees (SASC and HASC, respectively) passed military space reorganization language in their versions of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Both committees address the issue in similar ways, yet with a few key differences.

Principally, the SASC markup is much more detailed on the requirements for the new Space Force. Arguably, the legislative proposal from DoD could be construed as a “blank check,” causing the committee to add several reporting requirements and clear structural language. However, there is a key missing item despite SASC’s detailed structural language: the actual declaration of a new service being created. The SASC markup never explicitly declares the establishment of a new service of the U.S. military, although it is clearly implied. The current language solely renames the existing Air Force Space Command — the primary organization that houses space personnel and capabilities within the Air Force — to the U.S. Space Force.

The HASC language creating a new military service for space did not make it into the chairman’s mark of the NDAA, but it was added as an amendment to the legislation during the full committee markup. The bipartisan amendment came from congressmen, Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Mike Rogers (R-AL), who proposed a Space Corps in 2017. Unsurprisingly, the amendment looks very similar to the 2017 language that passed the full House but was later taken out in conference. The HASC version places strong emphasis on both career-building within the Space Corps and budget reporting requirements.

The most obvious difference between the SASC and HASC legislation is the name of the new service. SASC supports the name championed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Space Force, while the HASC calls it the U.S. Space Corps. However, both envision the organization as a corps-like structure within the Department of the Air Force and a co-equal service to the U.S. Air Force. Neither supports elevating the organization to an independent military department, which is what President Trump originally suggested in June 2018.1


Click here for the full report (4 PDF pages), on the CSIS website.

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