Thornberry: HASC Republicans 'Supportive' of Space Force

By Connie Lee
Rep. Mac Thornberry

Photo: Defense Dept.

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are on board with including a new space command its version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said June 11.

The draft chairman’s mark does not contain language on the implementation of a new space force. HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., told reporters June 10 that he had a “back and forth” on the matter with Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. of the HASC strategic forces subcommittee. The three congressman came to an agreement and instead plan to introduce the space command amendment at the committee markup this week.

“By the time we got to an agreement, it was too late to put it into the original mark,” Smith said. “We have an agreement on an amendment that will be added during the full committee markup portion.”

Thornberry said this amendment would be in line with the House’s previous effort to establish the new command. “I think the amendment that they have worked together on, basically, is what we did [in 2017] with a few tweaks,” he told reporters at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. “I think … Republicans are supportive of that.”

However, the proposal differs from the one put forth by President Donald Trump, Smith told the same group of reporters the previous day. This one will be smaller, “more focused” and won’t have as much red tape to cut through, he noted. The amendment aims to appoint one four-star general rather than three, and would require less mandatory transfers of personnel to the new command.

It is “along the lines of ... what they proposed two years ago, Smith said, to “try to pull those pieces together and make it … a separate piece from the rest of the Air Force.”

The “real challenge” of passing legislation is overcoming partisan politics that encourage lawmakers to disagree with opposing parties, Thornberry said.

“Can you still be for something … if you're a Democrat and on the same side as the president?” he asked. “The impulses of partisanship are so strong that it … is harder than it should be to stay with what's good for the country.”

Additionally, Thornberry said he plans to push for a $750 billion topline in an amendment that would match the amount proposed in the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget request. Yesterday, Smith said he plans to hold firm on promoting a $733 billion topline to instill “spending discipline” within the Defense Department.

Thornberry said the $750 billion would enable the government “to do very specific concrete things that are important to national security” such as disaster funding for military bases and hypersonic weapons development.

“Virtually everything in [the amendment] was either in the original administration budget request or an unfunded requirement from the services,” he said. “I stayed away from the most controversial stuff. There is no wall money … and other lightening rods because I wanted it to be core military capability.”

Additional reporting by Mandy Mayfield

Topics: Space

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