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— Wilson Brissett

Colorado Springs, Colo.The ​ US needs a separate military service to handle space, separating it from the Air Force, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said Tuesday.

Rogers, speaking at the 33rd Space Symposium here, sees “conflicts of interest between space and the Air Force’s other priorities” that results in a “lack of a tribe mentality” among Air Force space officers. That tribal sense of pride in space as a warfighting domain is exactly what Rogers thinks is missing. He said the problem is demonstrated by USAF funding priorities, lack of clear and centralized chain of authority, and the failure to develop a professional group of dedicated officer-specialists in space. Rogers said that since 2013, Air Force research, development, and procurement funds in non-space programs had increased 23 percent, while Air Force space funding in the same areas had declined 30 percent. He also said that space lacks an “operational, acquisitions, and resourcing authority aligned” from top to bottom like in the National Reconnaissance Office. And he said the Air Force does not prioritize space operations in its professional development programs. Rogers claimed that only two out of 40 classroom hours at Air Command and Staff College focus on space. So it’s no surprise, he said, that the Space and Missile Systems Center “does not compete favorably for senior officers” and that “general’s stars go overwhelmingly to pilots.” Rogers said that of the 37 Air Force generals promoted in 2016, 25 were pilots but none were space professionals.

While he praised what he called “the best Air Force in the world,” Rogers insisted that “space must be a priority, and it won’t be if you get out of bed every morning thinking about fighters and bombers.” A separate space service would “reduce bureaucracy” and produce “clear lines of responsibility and accountability.” It would also put space “on par with” other warfighting domains like air and sea, “so the space accounts are not raided” by the other services in hard fiscal times. A separate space service would also create “a cadre of space experts” and produce “an integrated national security space program.” While offering no details of the proposed separation, he said what he is proposing is “not radical surgery,” but that “bold reform is needed and we must start now.”