US planning to create 'Space Corps' as sixth branch of armed forces

Anger as opponents to move claim there was little time to protest against proposal

Fiona Keating
Sunday 02 July 2017 10:09 BST
Trump signs Space Council Executive Order

The House Armed Services Committee has voted to create a US "Space Corps", which would become a new branch of the armed forces and incorporate the current space missions of the US Air Force.

If the US Space Corps goes ahead, it would be the first new military service in the country since 1947.

The move has caused consternation as committee members of the panel say they were only recently informed, giving them little time to protest against the proposal.

Michael Turner, a Republican representative for Ohio, said he first heard about the proposal last week, when it appeared before the subcommittee on strategic force.

“I chastised my staff and said, ‘How could I not know that this was happening?’ They said, ‘Well, they had a meeting about it and you missed it,’” Turner said. “A meeting is certainly not enough. Maybe we do need a space corps, but I think this bears more than just discussions in a subcommittee.

“We have not had Secretary Mattis come before us and tell us what this means. We have not heard from the secretary of the Air Force. There’s a whole lot of work we need to do before we go as far as creating a new service branch.”

Martha McSally, a Republican for Arizona, was similarly caught off guard. “This is honestly the first time I’ve heard about a major reorganisation to our Air Force,” said the retired Air Force colonel.

In response to the criticism, Mike Rogers and Jim Cooper, the top Republican and Democrat on the strategic forces subcommittee, said the dedicated space service had been mooted for years. “There’s been nothing shortsighted about this,” Rogers said according to a Federal News Radio report.

“We started working on it vigorously in September, and we’ve had countless meetings with a number of experts who have advised us as to how this should be construed. In fact, this idea for a space corps as one of the solutions to Air Force space came from the Rumsfeld Commission in 2001.

"GAO has done three studies on this, all of which tell us that you cannot maintain the current organisational construct of the Air Force and solve the acquisition problems and the operational problems that we have. The Air Force is like any other bureaucracy. They don’t want to change.”

Mr Cooper, a Democrat for Tennessee, argued the new space corps was important for US defence strategies. “We could wake up one morning and be blinded and deafened by adversary powers, because so many of our most precious assets are up in space.”

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