You can put your decoder rings back in the attic! The Defense authorization for fiscal year 2019 that has now been negotiated between the House and Senate does not include any mention of Trump’s proposed “Space Force.”
President Trump himself has taken center stage in advocating for a Space Force. While the terms Space Corps and Space Force are sometimes used interchangeably, Space Corps notionally refers to an entity with the Air Force while Space Force is separate from the Air Force. Trump made clear last month what he wants: “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal.”
The President cannot accomplish that on his own, however. Congress must authorize and fund a new service. Because of the attention Trump is bringing to the issue, one question was whether the NDAA conference committee might say something about it even though the House- and Senate-passed bills did not.
The answer is no. While the conference report adopts the House provision requiring creation of a U.S. Space Command within USSTRATCOM to carry out joint space warfighting and addresses a number of other space issues, it does not require creation of a Space Force or Space Corps (or another alternative, a Space Guard similar to the Coast Guard). The conference report does require the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and a plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for space as a warfighting domain (Sec. 1607).
In other words, Congress has punted, for the moment. They have not said no to the idea, but they also are not ready to create a new armed force devoted expressly to fighting war in space.
Makes sense to me. A military force in space is going to be necessary, without question and especially because of the terms imposed on us by the Outer Space Treaty. It just isn’t the time yet for such a thing.
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