Coffman gives thumbs down to Trump's proposed Space Force

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, talks during a town hall meeting with constituents in a high school assembly hall Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in Greenwood Village (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said Friday he opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to create  a new “space force” branch of the military and will lead opposition to the plan from his perch on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Aurora Republican said the program would only add to military bureaucracy at a time when lawmakers are trying to reduce it, although Coffman added that he supports letting the Air Force focus on threats in space.

“I strongly disagree (with) the President that now is the time to create a separate Space Force,” Coffman said in a statement. “Congress is laser-focused on slimming down the bloated bureaucracy at the Pentagon, and creating a new ‘Space Force’ will inevitably result in more, not less, bureaucracy.”

Building on an idea floated by President Donald Trump earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence unveiled plans for what would be the country’s sixth military service in a speech Thursday at the Pentagon.

The United States Space Force, Pence said, would “carry American ideals into the boundless expanse of space” to promote “freedom, private property and the rule of law.”

Initial steps outlined by Pence include establishing a headquarters for space combat — potentially in Colorado Springs, where the U.S. Space Command operated until 2003.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a backer of the proposed “space force,” hailed Pence’s plan. The Colorado Springs Republican said Thursday he would work with other members of the state’s congressional delegation to keep Colorado’s lead in military space programs.

Coffman, who chairs the Armed Service’s Military Personnel Subcommittee and sits on the panel’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said he agrees with critics who say the Air Force hasn’t kept up with space-based challenges, such as Russian and Chinese threats to satellite technology. But rather than establish a new branch of the armed services, which requires congressional approval, he suggested the Air Force should first get a chance to catch up.

“The secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Heather Wilson, has asked Congress to give her the opportunity to focus more of the Air Forces’ attention on its space mission instead of taking it away and created a completely new organization,” Coffman said. “Let’s give her that chance.”

Coffman added: “Let’s hold Secretary Wilson to her pledge to focus more on space operations and try that approach before we create a new department and bureaucracy.”

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