A U.S. House of Representatives panel is proposing a whole new branch of the U.S. military. As part of a Defense Department authorization bill for 2018, the House Armed Services Committee voted to create a sixth military service, the U.S. Space Corps, according to Federal News Radio. The Space Corps would take over the space missions currently handled by the Air Force’s Space Command.
While NASA is tasked with the scientific exploration of space, the Air Force is in charge of developing and maintaining the military’s presence in space, including satellites, GPS technology, weapons, and aircraft (like the experimental spaceplane that recently landed in Florida after 700 days in orbit on a classified mission). It works with NASA regularly, too. Vandenberg Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base in California have both served as routine NASA launch sites, for instance.
The Space Corps is still just a proposal, and several House representatives told Federal News Radio that they were surprised and alarmed by it coming up for a vote, meaning that it’s not necessarily a shoo-in. The Air Force’s top leadership has spoken against the move, too.
However, proponents argue that the Air Force isn’t prepared to address space as an increasingly important element of warfare. “We need to be ready to confront this, and yes, buried deeply within the Air Force, you could do that, but it doesn’t get the priority it deserves, given how important it is and how it impacts everything that we do,” Congressman Adam Smith, the committee’s ranking Democratic member, was quoted by Federal News Radio as saying.
Just as the Marine Corps is under the auspices of the Navy, the Space Corps would be a distinct service within the Air Force. It would be overseen by the Secretary of the Air Force, although it would also have a four-star chief of staff, a position with a rank equal to that of the Air Force chief of staff, leading the service.
For the plan to move forward, the Department of Defense will have to prepare reports for Congress in 2018 detailing exactly how the new service would be set up.