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Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, center, seen here with Gen. David L. Goldfein, right, chief of staff of the Air Force, is opposed to the creation of Space Corps, seeing it as within the purview of her service branch. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
It was, to be sure, a bold and audacious move from a relatively unknown member of Congress, who moved forward despite fervent objections from both the Defense Department and the White House and not so much as a full committee hearing or debate.
Alabama Republican Mike D. Rogers nevertheless used his perch atop a House Armed Services subcommittee to slip language into the annual Pentagon policy bill to create an entirely new military service focused on space.
He rewrote the power structure within the military and added a new member to the exclusive Joint Chiefs of Staff, something that has traditionally happened only after a bruising, years-long turf war.
With the backing of Armed Services leaders, the provision moved at warp speed, sailing through the House as part of the massive defense bill in June, just weeks after his Strategic Forces panel first approved it.
Never mind that Space Corps, so named by its creator, will almost certainly die during negotiations with the Senate, which is unlikely to stand up a new fighting force so rapidly. Rogers may still have logged a significant and crafty political victory by putting space into the defense spotlight for the first time in years.
Even if dead on arrival in the Senate, which passed its version of the annual policy bill on Monday, his proposal may have boosted policy interest in space competition at a time when it affects everything from bank transactions to missile defense — and as the United States risks falling behind Russia and China in a new-age space race.
The threat that America could lose its advantage compelled Rogers to pull out all the stops for Space Corps.
“We as a world have become very dependent on space domestically, commercially, but not only that, militarily,” Rogers said. “Space has become an absolutely integral part of our ability to fight and win wars, which is why China and Russia have begun to exert so much influence over that part of their defense budget.”