Space Force takes another step towards reality

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The United States Department of Defense continues to reshuffle as President Donald Trump’s Space Force slowly comes to fruition, this time regarding budget appropriations.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced the defense subcommittee’s spending proposal for the fiscal year 2020, which included an approved recommendation to fund the entire $72.4 million Department of Defense budget request for the Space Force, which is also the amount authorized in the Senate version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

The funds are in a separate line called Operations and Maintenance, Space Force. The SAC also included $70 million in the Air Force O&M account for U.S. Space Command.

Notably, the House appropriators in June cut the Space Development Agency’s request for the Space Force facing concern whether or not the new military branch will be necessary in the first place, indicating that it may overlap with current responsibilities under the U.S. Air Force’s programs and missions.

The House initially outlined that an SDA funding will not be approved until the Air Force and the SDA define a unified and integrated space architecture and clarify roles and responsibilities.

In written answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Barbara Barrett, who would be the service’s fourth female secretary if confirmed, said a Space Force is necessary to deal with future threats and creating a specific service that would oversee a space-only mission “is overdue.”

“Today’s Air Force must solidify readiness gains and continue prioritized, cost-effective modernization,” Barrett said in a survey. “To meet the needs of the future, the Department of the Air Force must continue today’s mission while building the operational Space Force, which will be pivotal to America’s future defense.”

The president announced via Twitter in May that Barrett, a former diplomat, and businesswoman, was his pick to be the service’s 25th secretary.

If more than anything, these conversations regarding the budget for a future Space Force further solidifies the service and should be coming to reality soon.

Based on the SAC, from the $72.4 million Space Force funds, $53.8 million is for studies, contractor support, and analysis toward the implementation of the Space Force, $8.6 million is to transfer certain civilian positions from other organizations, and $9.9 million was requested to hire 65 full-time staff.

The SAC also added $22 million for a new program called Tactically Responsive Space Launch, which was added to the Air Force’s Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) account. The SAC also approved the $72.4 million requested by the Pentagon to stand up a Space Force.

“The committee believes that demonstrating tactically responsive launch operations that leverage new and innovative commercial capabilities will enable Department of Defense space domain mission assurance and strategic deterrence objectives,” said the committee’s draft report.

Appropriators noted that a “coherent tactically responsive launch concept of operations is needed to address tactics, techniques, and procedures and support operationally relevant satellite reconstitution demonstrations and pilot programs.”

The committee said establishing a dedicated funding line will give Congress more visibility and oversight of small launch funding.

“This allocation of funds constitutes a reasonable approach to examining and informing Congress and the Department of Defense on critical issues regarding the establishment of a Space Force and limiting bureaucratic growth before major implementation decisions are made,” the committee’s report said.

However, the funding for the Space Force and the SDA remains one of many items to be negotiated in a House-Senate appropriations conference.

Of those negotiations, where the Space Force funding will come from, the SAC will settle on the proposed budget of $622.5 billion in base defense funding, $70.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations and $1.7 billion in emergency funding.

Meanwhile, Barrett has already indicated some of her plans once the Space Force has been established.

“Cultivating a strategic warfighting ethos within the U.S. Space Force would be a top priority of my tenure,” she said. “Specifically, I would work to prioritize space capability within the new Space Force. I would leverage Air Force infrastructure where logical to do so. The U.S. Space Force must move forward smartly with focus on capability.”

She continued, “If confirmed, recruiting and retention would be among my top priorities. Many of today’s youth are not focused only on compensation; instead, they calculate their total reward, fulfillment from the job and the quality of the life they choose. The Air Force and Space Force offer young people jobs that inspire.”

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