Don't be Too Despondent about the Space Force

There appears to be a fair number of Democrats and liberals disappointed that the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA for short, approves a “Space Force,” giving Donald Trump bragging rights.

As much as we can, let’s stay away from letting the headlines ruin our mood, however. What the NDAA contains is minor to modest reorganization of the Air Force, which will house the Space Force, much the same way the Marine Corps is housed within the Navy. The Air Force is currently responsible for most of the military’s space programs anyway, and those duties will be shifted to the Space Force, which will still operate under the Air Force. The NDAA contains no extra funding for this Space Force, as it were.

So no, despite Trump’s wettest dreams (ew), this is not Star Wars.

The bill the House approved by an overwhelming, 377-48, vote carries a great deal of Democratic priorities, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith deserves most of the credit for getting them in. Chairman Smith, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the legislation “the most progressive defense bill” in decades.

A large part of that was, without a doubt, the fact that through this bill, for the first time in history, Congress establishes 12 weeks of paid parental leave policy for all federal workers. This is a major win for the 4.2 million federal workers who serve this country, and for anyone who cares about the ability of working people to create and raise families.

So while certain Democrats were irate at the suggestion that the bill is “progressive,” others, like Chairman Smith and Speaker Pelosi, actually made it more progressive. Let’s look at the Democratic priorities that made the cut, aside from the parental leave for federal workers. The bill:

  • Contains strong prohibition against using the funds for Trump’s border wall vanity project. It also limits “emergency” construction budget to $500 million (the border wall, as Trump wants it, needs $22 billion in funding).

  • Prohibits of the use of defense funds to detain children separated from their families under Trump’s zero tolerance policy against asylum seekers, and requires DoD to certify the housing of any unaccompanied children (even if they came alone and weren’t separated by the US government) meets HHS standards and the Flores Settlement.

  • Ends statutory prohibitions against transfer of detainees in Guantanamo Bay - this is the Republican scaremongering obstructionism that kept President Obama from being able to close the facility.

  • Eliminates cost-sharing for birth control services for members of the military through TRICARE.

  • For the first time ever, requires the military to collect data on white nationalism, racism, and extremism among its members.

  • Sets a goal of 25% renewable energy for military facilities by 2025, and the DoD is required to report progress.

  • Directs the military to establish a Tenants’ Bill of Rights for military families in military housing managed by private companies.

All of this, in addition to a 3.1% pay-raise for our soldiers, blocking Trump from leaving South Korea defenseless, and prohibiting the deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads. The CBO says that the proposal will not add to the deficit.

Would it be better if we could start to finally reduce military spending, especially on military contractors and wars? Would it be better if we could raise taxes on the wealthy to Absolutely. But Democrats still only control only the House in a legislative system that requires the agreement of the Senate and the president.

As Chairman Smith said on the House floor, the only way he failed in the negotiations with the White House and the Senate Republicans is that he failed to convert Trump and McConnell to becoming Democrats. But in every other way, because the Democrats engaged, progressive priorities that otherwise would have languished will now become law.

You want more? Me, too. Let’s make sure there’s a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate to help Speaker Pelosi a year from now so we can get more.

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