MA

Congress to Create U.S. Space Force

Published: December 10, 2019

USAFDEFENSENational Defense Authorization Act

Establishing a United States Space Force requires an Act of Congress and it appears they are poised to take such an action.

The creation of a U.S. Space Force has been a major defense priority of the Trump Administration for several years. In June 2018 President Trump directed the Pentagon to immediately begin the process of establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces, but it would take a formal authorization by Congress to make Trump’s goal a reality – a prospect that was a matter of wide debate at the time.

The White House included details for its Space Force proposal with the President’s FY 2020 Budget. Now roughly 18 months after Trumps initial directive the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have unveiled their agree-upon provisions for the Space Force creation as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is expected to pass shortly.

U.S. Space Force Provisions in the FY 2020 NDAA

Key provisions in the FY 2020 NDAA include:

  • Establishes the U.S. Space Force as the sixth Armed Service of the United States. The USSF will reside under the U.S. Air Force.
  • Authorizes $72.4 million for stand-up costs.
  • Provides the Secretary of the Air Force with the authority to transfer Air Force personnel to the Space Force. However, the Space Force will require no additional billets to minimize cost and bureaucracy.
  • Creates a Chief of Space Operations (CSO) for the U.S. Space Force who will report directly to the Secretary of the Air Force and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During its first year of existence, the CSO may also serve as the Commander of U.S. Space Command within the Air Force – thus a dual-hatted leadership arrangement at the start.
  • Requires the CSO to provide progress updates to the relevant congressional committees every 60 days on implementation and establishment status.
  • Creates an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration as a senior space architect to ensure integration across the national security space enterprise and take over Service Acquisition Executive responsibilities for space systems and programs (beginning in FY 2023). This Senate-confirmed person will also chair the Space Force Acquisition Council and oversee and direct the Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Rapid Capabilities Office, and Space Development Agency.
  • Creates an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy as the senior civilian in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for oversight of space warfighting.

Implications

Congress has previously included space-related provisions in the yearly NDAA legislation. For example, the FY 2018 NDAA authorized the creation of a Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force. It is likely that we will continue to see Space Force provisions in future NDAAs as the service gets established and begins to mature.

The new Space Force will also impact what technologies the Department of Defense (DOD) will pursue in the future and how they will acquire them. Previously, the DOD had been directed by the White House to accelerate space technology and anchor development initiatives to the modernization priorities outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

An implication for DOD so far has also been to seek to increase the rate of acquisitions – increasing the speed of fielding new capabilities, reducing the risk of experimentation, and shortening acquisition cycles. New development is likely to leverage fielding capabilities offices using Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) and/or Commercial Solution Openings (COSs).