Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., speaks at a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing earlier this year.

Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., speaks at a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing earlier this year. AP / Andrew Harnik

The Space Force Appears Cleared For Launch

Lawmakers hint that bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act will create a new military branch.

SIMI VALLEY, California — Congress has agreed on a plan to create a Space Force, a new branch of the military wanted by President Trump, lawmakers hinted on Saturday.

The House and Senate’s compromise on the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act is expected to be filed on Monday, Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum. Smith declined to give details until the bill is finalized. 

“I’ve been glowing for the past day,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who along with Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., have been trying to create the new service since 2017. “The hay’s not in the barn yet, but it’s real close to the barn door.”

Rogers said lawmakers are expected to vote on the NDAA on Wednesday.

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“We’ve worked out the peripheral issues. Space Force was not one of those,” he said. “It’s been agreed upon for a couple of months as far as the structure.”

The House and Senate each proposed their own versions of the Space Force, which has been championed by President Trump. The House-approved version had less bureaucracy than the Senate version.

“The biggest concern is maximizing efficiency, minimize the amount of money spent,” Smith said Saturday when asked what he’ll be watching for as a Space Force is stood up. “We don’t need to create a whole bunch of more positions. It’s really more a matter of realigning the priorities. It’s not a matter of creating another big bureaucracy.

“You’ll see the details when they come out,  but we worked in a bipartisan way to try to keep that stuff under control and not just give a blank check out there to go create another institution,” Smith said.

After initially looking to create a new military department for space, the Trump administration earlier this year proposed creating a Space Force within the Department of the Air Force — an arrangement that structured the new branch just like the Marine Corps being part of the Department of the Navy.

In August, the Pentagon created U.S. Space Command, a combatant command to focus on space warfighting. The Trump administration has said the move is necessary to make sure satellites critical to the military and the world's economy are protected from weapons being developed largely by China and Russia.