US lawmakers have drafted legislation proposing the formation of a new branch of the military called the Space Corps. This new space-orientated military service would join the five other branches of the United States Armed Forces and is intended to manage national security in space.
Last week, the House Armed Service Committee, led by Republican Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Democrat Jim Cooper, introduced the new legislation claiming that the current national security space systems in the United States are not capable of protecting the country's space assets.
"Not only are there developments by adversaries," says Mr Rogers and Mr Cooper in the committee release, "but we are imposing upon the national security space enterprise a crippling organizational and management structure and an acquisition system that has led to delays and cost-overruns."
Although the proposal establishes the US Space Corps as its own separate military service, it would still be operated from within the Department of the Air Force, in much the same way the US Marine Corps operates from within the Department of the Navy.
Soon after the new legislation was presented many leaders from the Air Force vociferously criticized the new plan. Many of the propositions in the legislation are already under the purview of the Air Force Space Command, a division of the US Air Force that currently acts as the primary military arm dedicated to space defenses.
"This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said to reporters. "And if I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy … I don't need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff."
Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein was equally critical of the plan, arguing that while the domain of space is of increasing importance moving forward, fragmenting the defense forces even further is not the solution.
"Right now as we're making this transition, to get us anchored into a discussion about the organizational chart, while we're right now trying to improve lethality and warfighting going forward, quite frankly would slow us down," General Goldfein said.
Republican Chairman of the Committee pushing the bill, Mike Rogers, is adamant he'll move the legislation forward with or without the support of the Air Force. He expressed outrage at Secretary Wilson's comments criticizing his plan.
"The bureaucracy is always going to fight reform – always, especially the Pentagon," Mr Rogers said in an interview with NPR. "They're fighting this because they don't want Congress meddling. You know, what I've told [Secretary Wilson] is, in 16 years, the Air Force has not changed a thing. And they've got us in this situation now where Russia and China have become near peers. They're close to surpassing us. What we're proposing would change that."
So the battle is on, and despite the current proposal establishing the Space Corps by January 1, 2019, there is still a way to go before the legislation becomes law. From getting through a vote by the entire House Armed Services Committee in early July, to moving through the House and Senate, the road to the Space Corps is a long and bumpy one.
Due to the potential advantages and dangers, it's pretty much inevitable that the military will be flexing its muscles in space more in the future, but in what form is yet be seen. The whole Space Corps nomenclature doesn't exactly bring positive connotations to mind. With the dystopian fascist Space Corps in the Judge Dredd comics to the amusing bureaucratic Space Corps in the cult sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, the name feels more like a chapter from a sci-fi army novel than a realistic military department
Maybe the key to getting this legislation through is just a better name?
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