Late last month, the House Armed Services Committee approved a version of the annual U.S. military budget that includes something far from routine—the creation of a new military branch devoted specifically to combat in outer space.
It would be the first new U.S. military branch since the creation of the Air Force in 1947. Today the U.S. Armed Forces consists of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force.
This “Space Corps,” as outlined in the current version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, would take many functions currently handled by the Air Force and its Space Command and spin them off to a sixth military branch that would report to the civilian Secretary of the Air Force.
(The Space Corps would relate to the Air Force in a similar fashion to the way that the Marine Corps relates to the Navy.)
But Air Force leadership wants to kill the idea. Both Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told CNN that a separate Space Corps would bureaucratic bloat and interdepartmental turf wars, rather than better results.
“If I had more money,” Wilson said, “I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”
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Supporters of a discrete Space Corps argue that the Air Force’s focus on terrestrial flight, including hugely complex weapons systems like the F-35 fighter jet, prevents it from giving space the attention it deserves.
At a time when private spaceflight is growing increasingly popular around the globe, will Congress make the U.S. Space Corps a reality? It seems unlikely, at least this year—the Senate version of the budget does not include a Space Corps provision.