A new branch of the United States military — the Space Corps — will be headquartered in Colorado Springs, provided it becomes a reality.
Space Corps is a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House Armed Services Committee last month. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs serves on the committee and said, despite protests from Air Force officials, that the creation of Space Corps is vital to national defense. The branch would be housed under the Air Force, with its Chief of Staff answering to the Secretary of the Air Force. It would be the first new branch of the U.S. military since the Air Force was formed in 1947.
“The first priority is our national security,” Lamborn said. “It’s also a win-win situation in that our local economy benefits from having a Space Corps that is headquartered in Colorado Springs. That gives our community additional clout, and eventually additional jobs, but the bottom line is national security is enhanced, and that’s always got to come first.”
Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, echoed Lamborn’s thoughts.
“This is a real national security concern,” Rogers said. “Doug and I can’t tell you the specifics because it’s all classified. But it’s very sobering when you see what China and Russia are doing and that they are about to surpass our capabilities in space if we don’t do something.
“Space has been growing in importance, not only in our daily lives and commercially, but in our military. Over the last 10 to 15 years it has become absolutely essential for almost everything we do militarily to fight and win wars.”
Rogers said the Air Force hasn’t made space dominance a priority, focusing instead on air dominance, so Congress needs to step in.
“This is our role, to oversee when things aren’t working and move people in the right direction,” he said. “Bureaucracies don’t want to change and aren’t going to change unless you make them. The second thing is — and I hate to be crass, but it’s just a fact — they don’t want that money pot taken away. The fact is, the space budget has been used by the Air Force as a money pot to pay for air platforms when they felt like Congress didn’t give them enough money for their air dominance roles. That’s just a fact; it’s been happening for a long time. That can’t be allowed to go on any more because space challenges have become so threatening, we can’t allow that budget to be pilfered any longer.”
The provision passed 58-4 with bipartisan committee support, Rogers said. The Senate has yet to address the proposal — though Rogers said staffers indicate there is support — and the White House would have to sign a bill creating the new military branch. The Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, would then have six months to design Space Corps — subject to Congressional approval, Rogers said — with implementation set for 2019.
Rogers said Space Corps personnel and funding would be segregated from the Air Force. The Air Force Space Command has been at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs since 1982.
Job growth is uncertain, although Military and Veterans Policy Director Sam Fletcher, who is Lamborn’s lead military staffer in Washington, D.C., said in an email that personnel and facilities at both Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases would be utilized “and would all grow as the focus dramatically shifted to space warfighting and budgets were finally prioritized for space requirements.”
Fletcher said there is “massive growth potential for local installations and industry” and that the Air Force Academy “could be the center of recruitment and basic training for the Space Corps.”
Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC Government Affairs Manager Rachel Beck said in an email: “Because the defense industry is a crucial part of our regional and state economy, we are closely tracking the proposal and continue to participate in discussions with stakeholders on both sides of the matter. The legislation still has a long way to go before it would be implemented. We need to better understand how the Space [Corps] would be structured in order to assess ramifications for our regional economy.”
Fletcher said the unclassified space budget is about $10 billion and the classified budget is “roughly double” that.
“I know this is a controversial proposal that’s been put into the National Defense Authorization Act,” Lamborn said. “However, we are convinced — almost unanimously on the Armed Services Committee, and certainly on the [strategic forces] subcommittee — that because the need is so great, we have to act now.
“We have a very solid proposal. At this point, it’s going to be the House and the Senate negotiating something and then sending it to the White House. So change is in the air. The train has left the station. We’re not going to go along with the status quo. The needs are too great; our national security is too important.” n CSBJ