HomeNewsArticle Display

Senate Armed Services Committee recognizes importance of space while offering divergent views on Space Force

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson (second from right) testifies on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson (second from right) testifies on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., April 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

The Senate Armed Services Committee acknowledged April 11 that maintaining U.S. superiority in space is a national imperative but expressed skepticism that creating a Space Force as a new, sixth branch of military is the best approach for achieving that goal.


The hearing was one of the first – and most high profile to date – focusing solely on the administration’s plan to create a Space Force within the Air Force as a new branch of the military to confront emerging threats in space. Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., set the tone at the outset, saying he had two primary questions: How much will the Space Force cost and how will it “fit” into the military’s larger operations, mandates and strategic goals?


While Inhofe said the first question has been answered, “I’m still waiting for answers to the other question.”


Indeed, questions about the Space Force’s form and function and whether it provides crucial new capabilities or duplicates existing ones dominated the two-and-a-half-hour long hearing. Those same questions are likely to dominate debate in coming months as Congress considers the issue.


The hearing featured testimony from Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of United States Strategic Command.


In making the case for the Space Force, Shanahan echoed observations that have been made repeatedly by Wilson and other senior military and civilian leaders.


“We currently maintain an advantage relative to these competitors, but our space enterprise was built for a strategic environment that no longer exists and our margin of dominance is quickly shrinking,” he said, specifically noting actions by Russia and China.


“We must not wait until we experience conflict in space to adapt our posture,” he said in testimony prepared for the hearing. “As other great powers become more competent and capable in space, America burdens increased risk because we will not have sufficient time to ‘hammer out’ what will be needed and how to do it if contingencies arise.”


By the end of the hearing, only one senator – freshman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. – voiced unequivocal support. “I may be an outlier on this committee,” she said, “but I totally get why you need Space Force. I fully understand why you need to make this a priority and to focus on this.”


For her part, Wilson reprised a primary argument for why a Space Force is necessary in an era of great power competition and at a time when space has moved from an open and uncontested environment to one that is highly contested and militarily crucial.


“America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries know it,” Wilson said. As she did on April 9 in a major speech to the 35th Space Symposium in which she outlined the Air Force’s “clear-eyed assessment” of the changing nature in space, she told the committee that the Air Force closely examined “a range of options” for ensuring dominance in space and, after that review, “landed on the Space Force.”


More broadly, Wilson told the committee that President Donald Trump deserves credit for his focus on space and “elevating this issue and making this a kitchen table conversation.”


Wilson also told the committee that creating a Space Force is important because it will have a unity of purpose and focus and it will “identify a culture as part of a joint warfighting culture.”


Wilson pointed out that the Air Force has created a plan that will allow the Space Force to be operational within 90 days after legislation creating it is signed into law. She also highlighted how the Air Force has moved aggressively to streamline the procurement process and make it more nimble. Changes made to date in discarding unnecessary acquisition practices have cut 21 years out of space programs alone.


Even so, many on the committee were not convinced.


“All of us would agree that space is essential to the security of the United States,” said ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I. “We must prepare accordingly. The question is, how?”


Reed voiced concern that, in his view, the organizational structure for the Space Force is “top heavy.” “Why didn’t you think harder about coming up with a leaner structure?” he asked.


Reed also asked why the National Reconnaissance Office and assorted intelligence agencies with responsibilities for space were not folded into the Space Force.


Shanahan responded that, “the bias is toward speed” which meant the proposal includes “stakeholders we have control of.”


Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said, “It’s agreed (Space Force) is a necessity but there’s no agreement for how to sort it out.”


Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he was “undecided but skeptical.” “How is it that adding a box to an org chart is going to give us a qualitative military edge?”


Hyten responded that while currently senior military leaders and commanders have responsibility for space, they also have other demands. That fractured approach, he said, must be resolved now that space is highly contested.


With a Space Force, he said, “there will be somebody in the Pentagon focusing all attention, all the time, on space.”


One thing most agreed on was the need to concentrate on space.


“Everyone loses if war extent expands into space,” Wilson said. “But we are developing the capabilities to deter and, if necessary, to fight and win in the space domain as we do in all other domains so that our adversaries will choose wisely to deal with our diplomats and not with our war fighters, and that's what this is about.”

Engage

Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: The @140Wg became the first ANG unit to successfully execute an agile combat employment exercise while at @Buckley_AFB. T…
Twitter
“I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Officialhttps://t.co/AKSjyQNq4s
Twitter
A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 317th Airlift Wing flies during a Joint Forcible Entry exercise at Dyess… https://t.co/t3VXu0ZYWj
Twitter
Pentagon staff applaud @cmsaf_official as he exits the Pentagon for the last time as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air… https://t.co/c9RXsc3lAO
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA on Aug 14 at 9:30AM E… https://t.co/GfPIHkx0zn
Twitter
An @EdwardsAFB B-52H Stratofortress completed a captive-carry flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Respon… https://t.co/HxxgE2In8C
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Just arrived to @NellisAFB to see RED FLAG, the #USAF Weapons School, and more. Because it has the best #Airmen and trai…
Twitter
“It’s no overstatement to say that brilliant ideas combined with trailblazing Airmen makes today’s Air Force the mo… https://t.co/qsDWN2Den5
Twitter
An F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 3rd Wing approaches for landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during R… https://t.co/EMKHnjC6p0
Twitter
A C-130H from the 302nd Airlift Wing, equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, flies over fires near… https://t.co/9BPVXNFual
Twitter
Roam Robotics developed a lightweight & inexpensive knee exoskeleton for applications in the health, military & rec… https://t.co/7klpyEaYG1
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: |RESOLUTE PARTNERSHIPS| On Aug. 6, 2020, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and @AirMobilityCmd units were called to action to p…
Twitter
A C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord flies over the Seattle skyline after completing a training exe… https://t.co/4IodNs1bId
Twitter
#DYK The T-33A Shooting Star at Moody AFB's air park was developed from the single-seat F-80 fighter by lengthening… https://t.co/XXY3pAHDzu
Twitter
A C-17 Globemaster III returns to @TeamCharleston after evacuating to Ellsworth AFB. Ellsworth has a support agree… https://t.co/vtHhp1ETVC
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: #OTD in 1949, the DOD was formed, unifying the military under the secretary of defense. Our thanks to everyone who serve…
Twitter
Starting off the week with some air power! . An F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing takes off from Joint Base Elme… https://t.co/cjvCe6fSOk
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: “We need out-of-the-box thinkers to succeed in our mission of developing the base of the future,” said Brig. Gen. Patrice Mel…
Twitter
“With accelerating disruptive technologies...rewriting Air Power for all nations, not just the U.S., continuing our… https://t.co/WDD6LsQGkr
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,266,247
Follow Us