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Rogers ‘Pissed’ At Air Force Opposition To Space Corps

Posted by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on


WASHINGTON: Rep. Mike Rogers really wants an independent Space Corps, and he’s willing to take the Air Force head on to get it.

“I had no illusions from the beginning that the Air Force was going to embrace these reforms,” the Strategic Forces subcommittee chairman said this morning, “but when I see arguments that are actually going to set back efforts to respond to adversaries and space threats, well, I’m outraged.” The original text of his remarks distributed to the press actually said: “I’m pissed.”

Rep. Mike Rogers

Yesterday, the Air Force Secretary, Heather Wilson, and the Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein, wasted no time in denouncing Rogers’ idea. Air Force four-stars loathe the idea of stripping away one of the service’s main (and growing) missions — and the attendant people, funding and prestige that go with them,

Many of their subordinates who work on space, however, quietly wonder if their careers and missions would do better in a service not dominated by fighter pilots. “The Air Force would continue to force space to compete with F-35s (for funding),” said Rogers, “and we know who’s going to win that competition.”

“The Pentagon always resists change. It resisted the creation of the Air Force itself – great irony there,” Rogers said. “Now the Air Force leadership would have us trust them: I don’t think so. They just need a few more years to rearrange the deck chairs: I don’t think so. This is the same Air Force that got us into the situation where the Russians and the Chinese are near-peers to us in space.”

[Clarified 8:55 pm] Rogers was so incensed by Secretary Wilson’s response, in particular, that it made him publicly threaten to reduce her authority further. His current proposal would have the Space Corps independent of the Air Force as a uniformed service but still reporting to the civilian Air Force Secretary, who would oversee Space Corps acquisition — although the bill strips the SecAf of her role as the Pentagon’s principal space advisor. Given Wilson’s resistance, however, Rogers said, “maybe we need a Space Corps Secretary instead of an Air Force Secretary leading space.”

“To be clear, I’m willing to work with the Air Force, and the Secretary and the Chief, to reform the national security space enterprise,” Rogers said. “But, at the end of the day, whether or not they’re in the room when decisions are made is their choice. They need to work with Congress to fix their problems with the national security space enterprise or we may need to take this mission totally away from the Air Force.”

In fact, reorganizing government is one of Congress’s favorite solutions for all sorts of problems, often with very mixed results — witness the institutional incoherence and infighting that have plagued both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy since their inception. On the other hand, given that the Air Force itself was split off from the Army in 1947, it’s hard for its leaders to argue creating a new service is always a bad idea. So be prepared for a passionate debate on the merits of the proposal.

Mr. Roger’s full remarks on space, excepted from the prepared text of his opening statement this morning at his subcommittee’s mark-up (i.e. draft) of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, follow:

The Mark addresses the significant flaws in the organization and management of the national security space enterprise. This is an issue the subcommittee has studied for months and I can’t even tell you how many meetings with space experts and leaders that Jim and I have taken on this subject in the last nine months. We both have come to the same conclusion – that the Department cannot fix itself on this issue, Congress has to step in.

And that’s why the Mark creates a new Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force, under its Secretary, but separate from the Air Force itself. It also re-establishes a Space Command as a sub-unified command under Strategic Command.

These changes won’t be easy and will be disruptive in the short term, but our adversaries will never be less capable than they are today – we must act now if we wish to maintain the advantages the U.S. military obtains from and by operating through space.

Now, I had no illusions from the beginning that the Air Force was going to embrace these reforms. But when I see arguments that we are actually going set back efforts to respond to adversaries and space threats, well, I’m outraged.

My colleagues know me and they know Mr. Cooper. (The subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Jim Cooper of Tennessee). We’re not easily provoked.

But, since we’ve rolled out our Mark with these reforms to the national security space enterprise, I have to say I’ve been shocked by the response from the Air Force leadership.

Did they miss where the Chinese and the Russians have already reorganized space operations? The Chinese literally have a space force today.

Yet, the Air Force would continue to force space to compete with F-35s, and we know who’s going to win that competition.

Yesterday, the Secretary of the Air Force stated that, ‘This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money…I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff.’

Well, the Secretary should tell me where in this proposal it says she needs to add six more deputy chiefs of staff? If she can’t implement this proposal without creating six new Deputy Chiefs of Staff, that’s on her. Maybe we need a Space Corps Secretary instead of an Air Force Secretary leading space.

I hear these comments, by the way, after the Secretary has taken credit for something the Air Force announced three months ago, this new A-11, creating a new deputy chief of staff of the Air Force and a new box on the org chart – the org chart that already has six boxes on it of people who can say ‘no’ to space projects.

The Pentagon always resists change.

It resisted the creation of the Air Force itself – great irony there.

It resisted Goldwater-Nichols, which has been a vital reform to the way the military fights as a team.

The Air Force resisted the develop of unmanned aerial vehicles. Who can imagine what modern warfighting would be like if we’d listened to the Air Force then when it claimed the resources could be better spent on things other than UAVs?

It ignored the Rumsfeld Commission, the Allard Commission, a dozen other reports and studies over the past 15 years saying that something had to change with military space. What do they have in common? They have all concluded that the current organization isn’t working.

Now the Air Force leadership would have us trust them – I don’t think so. They just need a few more years to rearrange the deck chairs – I don’t think so. This is the same Air Force that got us into the situation where the Russians and the Chinese are near-peers to us in space.

We will not allow the status quo to continue.

To be clear, I’m willing to work with the Air Force, and the Secretary and the Chief, to reform the national security space enterprise. But, at the end of the day, whether or not they’re in the room when decisions are made is their choice. They need to work with Congress to fix their problems with the national security space enterprise or we may need to take this mission totally away from the Air Force.

Ok, with that friendly warning out of the way, let’s focus on the rest of the Mark…..

What do you think?