Air Force to Congress: No 'Space Corps'

FILE -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein gives his "Air Force Update," at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium March 2, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., believes the Air Force is getting in its own way when it comes to advancing space operations.

During the House Armed Services Committee markup hearing of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday, Rogers lamented that the service doesn't expect to stand up a U.S. Space Corps to better prepare against space threats from Russia and China.

"When I see arguments that we are actually going to set back efforts to respond to adversaries and space threats -- well, I'm outraged," he said.

Within the bill, under "Management and Organization of Space Programs," lawmakers included a section that "would authorize the creation of a Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force and require the Secretary of the Air Force to certify its establishment by January 1, 2019," according to the budget document.

But the service maintains it will not stand up a separate branch for space, mainly because of limited resources.

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"We think right now it's important to take the capabilities and the resources that we have and focus on implementation and integration with the broader force, versus creating a separate service," Air Force spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said Thursday.

Ryder's comments follow similar ones Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson made Wednesday after a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. Wilson pushed her agenda to "simplify space, not make it more complicated and bureaucratic," according to reports.

And Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein agrees. Last month, he said it makes no sense to break off a new space domain right now.

"I don't support it at this time in our history, based on where we are in this transition from a benign environment to a warfighting domain," Goldfein said during a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing.

"I will tell you that my sense is that we have an opportunity being placed in front of us right now to take a look at what is the way we fight in the air, on land, at sea, and we know how to do this business," he said. "And now, how do we take those processes, procedures, tactics, techniques, and actually apply them across the space domain?

"And so right now, to get focused on a large organizational change would actually slow us down," Goldfein said.

Though the Air Force has no current plan to stand up a "Space Corps," Ryder said that does not mean the service isn't leading the space effort for the Defense Department.

"The fact that the Air Force has since 1954 essentially been the predominant military leader in terms of space operations, we think applying that -- and getting the resources necessary to enable those forces -- is really where we need to be right now," he said.

The service last week announced it has officially created a senior military role to directly oversee space missions, giving the position an equal footing on the Air Staff at the Pentagon.

Over the next two months, officials will begin delegating staff to the A-11, as the new position is known, establishing operations and identifying additional senior leaders who will work within the new staff.

While the service has not named the first person to fill the role, Ryder said the Air Force is poised to delegate 10 people for the staff.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.