President Trump’s nominee to lead the Air Force said Thursday she would prioritize the creation of Space Force if she’s confirmed.
At her confirmation hearing to be Air Force secretary, nominee Barbara Barrett told the Senate Armed Services Committee she believes a Space Force is “overdue.”
“If confirmed, standing up a Space Force would be a key imperative,” said Barrett, whose resume includes past stints as chairwoman of the Aerospace Corporation, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and ambassador to Finland. “American national power depends upon space, and our potential adversaries know it. We must be prepared to defend critical space assets, increase the resilience of our space enterprise and be prepared to fight and win should deterrence fail.”
President Trump has made establishing a new military branch for space, dubbed Space Force, a key priority. Supporters of Space Force argue it is necessary to ensure the military can counter Russia and China, which have tested anti-satellite weapons and taken steps to establish their own space forces.
Trump’s proposal was said to have soured his relationship with the previous Air Force secretary, Heather Wilson, who opposed his initial plan to have Space Force be an entirely separate branch of the military. Wilson stepped down as secretary in May to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.
Creating a new military branch requires congressional approval. Both the House and the Senate have versions of a space military branch in their versions of the annual defense policy bill, making its creation likely after the two chambers reconcile some details.
Both the House and the Senate are looking to create the space military branch under the Air Force Department in a structure similar to the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Department of the Navy. That means the space service’s top civilian would be the Air Force secretary.
Pressed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on how she would implement the Senate’s Space Force plan, which Kaine said will “likely survive relatively intact” after negotiations with the House, Barrett did not provide specifics ahead of the bill being finalized.
“I look forward to seeing the outcome of those negotiations in Congress and building upon what Congress directs,” Barrett said. “I would look forward to participating if confirmed in developing an agency that is focused on capability in space. Not on building structural bureaucracy, but instead building the capability for the warfighter and for the American public.”