AP NEWS

Patrick Shanahan pushes for Space Force amid lawmaker doubts

March 26, 2019

Just one day after the House Armed Services Committee’s Democratic chairman rejected the Trump administration’s Space Force proposal and said he would instead look for “other options,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and the Pentagon’s general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said they strongly support it.

Appearing before the committee Tuesday, Mr. Shanahan faced skeptical questions from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, but defended the proposed force as “an opportunity to have commonality across the whole department, something we have never been able to achieve. [The] Space Force is that uniting construct.”

President Trump last month signed a directive that set in motion a scaled-down version of his Space Force, to be housed within the Air Force, though it may one day become a co-equal branch of the military.

Mr. Shanahan told the committee the reasoning to placing the command for now under the Air Force is because that is “where the skill is for space.”

“You want to be where the people are that have the background. This is really more about structural change,” Mr. Shanahan said.

The Trump administration wants to phase in a Space Force over five years beginning with the FY2020 budget year. That would add an estimated $2 billion in costs beyond what is spent on existing military space activities.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington Democrat and a longtime skeptic of the idea, said Monday evening that the budget details behind the Space Force are “highly problematic.”

Mr. Smith said the proposal “seeks to create a top-heavy bureaucracy,” with the potential to include two new four-star generals and a new undersecretary of the Air Force, and to “waive a wide range of existing laws” without laying out the potential costs.