Senators Question the Administration’s Space Force Proposal
The Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony last week from Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Marine General Joe Dunford (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and Air Force General John Hyten (Commander of U.S. Strategic Command and the presumptive next Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs).
The witnesses presented unified support for the creation of the Space Force. Secretary Wilson, notably, voiced support for the proposal, which would put the new Space Force under the Air Force. That structure mimics the design of the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy; Wilson acknowledged that she had previously been critical of proposals that would establish a new independent department for space. From the perspective of continuity, the key testimony came from General Hyten; both Wilson and Dunford are lame ducks, and Shanahan’s nomination for Secretary remains uncertain. Many of the Senators voiced concerns about the fundamental need for a Space Force and the significant bureaucratic expansion contemplated by the proposal.
It was clear from the hearing that the Administration and the Department still have much to do to market this Space Force proposal to the Congress. Given the reactions so far, it is extremely unlikely to be included as written in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. While Congress continues to debate the proposal, now is the window to engage with the congressional defense committees with comments on the proposal and suggestions for how to modify it.
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