UPDATED: Adds Changes To Air Force Space Command
And that’s really just the beginning of what the Senate and House Armed Services Committees hath wrought to national security space in the National Defense Authorization Act. The Air Force must be stinging from the changes, imposed on the service after it fought tooth and nail, successfully, to forestall a Space Corps that the House wanted to impose. While Congress did not impose a Space Corps on the Air Force, it sent them a clear message that they’ve lost the argument that they have a special claim to space and should prepare for bracing changes.
The Deputy Defense Secretary is asked to recommend who should oversee space acquisition, embodied in Major Force Program (MFP) 12. The NDAA Conference Report will bar both the Air Force Secretary and the Pentagon’s head of intelligence, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. (The report will be available tomorrow. I was told this by a senior armed services staff member.) Currently, those budget decisions are made by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, acting as the Principal DoD Space Advisor (PDSA). For those who aren’t familiar with MFPs, they are designed to pull together a range of programs and allow senior Pentagon officials to see what their budget allocations are at a glance. By aggregating the data in one place, the capabilities are more closely tracked because senior congressional and Pentagon leaders just don’t have much time.
UPDATE Also, the bill reorganizes Air Force Space Command, modeling it on the Navy’s Office of Naval Reactors. It grants AFSPC commander a six-year term “and empowers the Commander with responsibility for personnel, operations, and acquisitions with respect to space forces of USAF,” consultant Mike Tierney with Jacques & Associates says in an email. Finally, the commander reports directly to the Air Force Secretary. UPDATE ENDS
“After months of thorough oversight, it became clear that the Department of Defense, and the Air Force in particular, did not prioritize space capabilities even as threats increase, and were not structured in a way to ensure that we are able to deter, defend and if necessary fight and win in space,” HASC Strategic Forces Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Jim Cooper said in a statement. “No single official could be held accountable for the success or failure of the space enterprise. Too many bureaucrats are empowered to say ‘no’ when it comes to defending our assets in space, and too few were empowered to say ‘yes’.
Now, they say in their statement, “the Air Force will no longer be able to treat space as a third-order priority after fighter jets and bombers.” They compared the space changes in the NDAA to the Air Corps Act of 1926, which established the Army Air Corps. And they pledged to “work closely with the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who will be responsible for managing these changes, and we will closely oversee the Secretary of the Air Force to ensure her full compliance with the legislation.
“This is just the first step. We will not allow the United States national security space enterprise to continue to drift towards a Space Pearl Harbor.”
In addition to all that change, a Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation (FFRDC) “affiliated with the Air Force” is charged with analyzing the benefits and drawbacks of creating the Space Corps — so that proposal isn’t dead yet.
Here’s a breakdown of the important changes made by the NDAA:
- Congress grants a seven-year multiyear procurement contract (MYP) for the V-22 Osprey. Usually, a multiyear embraces only five years but the longer period is not unprecedented, according to a senior congressional staffer. The bill authorizes the six V-22s requested by the Trump Administration for 2018;
- It adds 20 additional F-35s — 10 A models, six C models and 4 B models — for a total of 90 planes;
- The Chief Information Officer loses the business IT resources he now oversees. They migrate to the Chief Management Officer, but the CIO grows in importance as a cyber warrior. He may also become a focus of more space operations, though exactly how isn’t that clear yet;
- It adds 10 Super Hornets for the Navy, for a total of 24;
- It includes a range of acquisition reform measures, including granting the Pentagon the ability to buy directly from commercial vendors online. And no, it’s not just Amazon who may benefit, a senior staffer told reporters.
- Included in the authorized DoD topline of $626.4 billion are important increases in endstrength. The Army gets an additional 7,500 active duty troops and 500 each for the National Guard and Reserve. The Navy adds 4,000 to the active force and 1,000 to the Reserve. The Marines add 1,000. The Air Force is authorized to boost its forces by 4,100 active, 900 National Guard and 800 Reserve.
- The Overseas Contingency Operations budget is set at an authorized $65.7, and staffers said, it includes no base budget items.
When the report comes out and reaction to the bill and report begin to trickle out, we’ll cover it for you.