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Thanks to Alabama’s Mike Rogers, Space Force is finally happening

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday gave final passage to the conference report for the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sending the measure to President Donald Trump’s desk.

This latest NDAA “contains major victories for Alabama and the nation’s defense and aerospace sectors,” Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a statement after the Senate passed the measure on an overwhelming 86-8 vote.

In total, the NDAA authorizes $735 billion for national defense priorities. This includes authorizing a 3.1% pay raise for members of the Armed Forces, critical resources needed to carry out the most recent National Defense Strategy, reform of military housing and continued research and development into key technologies.

“This bipartisan, bicameral measure will help provide our troops with the tools necessary to best defend our nation,” Shelby added. “This is an important step in the process, and I look forward to securing critical funding for the Department of Defense through the appropriations process as soon as possible.”

Another highlight of the NDAA is the creation of the Space Force, a goal long championed by Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03). Rogers was a House conferee on the NDAA and was able to push the Space Force over the finish line.

In a statement after the House passed the conference report last week, Rogers remarked, “I was ecstatic that the project my friend Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and I have been working on for several years is finally becoming a reality. This is an important step for our national security. Our adversaries are moving quickly in space and this new service will allow us to quickly realign our resources and efforts towards countering them.”

The NDAA establishes the U.S. Space Force in Title 10 as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the U.S. Air Force. This was a top priority not only for Rogers, but for Trump. The Space Force will become the first new branch of the military since 1947. Additionally, the NDAA importantly recognizes space as a warfighting domain and authorizes the transfer of Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force.

On the appropriations side of the equation, the two bipartisan, compromise FY 2020 funding packages agreed to Monday by Senate and House appropriators provides $40 million in operations and maintenance monies to stand up the U.S. Space Force.

While this is a cut from the $72.4 million that the Trump administration originally requested, appropriators stated that the lower number “reflects both the scaling back of the large bureaucracy associated with the Administration’s original Space Force proposal, and the delays in enacting the authorization and appropriations bills necessary to establish the Space Force.”

The House passed the FY 2020 funding packages on Tuesday in a 297-120 vote and a 280-138 vote. The Senate can now take the appropriations measures up. The packages are expected to pass the Senate on a bipartisan basis.

Shelby is the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on defense. He led negotiations on the funding packages for his chamber, while House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) spearheaded things for the lower chamber.

RELATED: Aderholt: Shelby-negotiated NASA funding bill is a big win for Alabama

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn