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OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon creates new civilian Space Force position | State approves $46 million missile sale to Australia

The Hill logo The Hill 10/30/2020 Ellen Mitchell
a close up of a boat: OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon creates new civilian Space Force position | State approves $46 million missile sale to Australia © Twitter/ULA OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon creates new civilian Space Force position | State approves $46 million missile sale to Australia

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The Pentagon has created a new civilian position in the Space Force that will eliminate a layer of bureaucracy, the Defense Department announced Friday.

The department named Justin Johnson as the acting assistant secretary of defense for space policy, the senior official that will oversee the Pentagon's space war-fighting policy.

What the job entails: The role, which will be under the under secretary of Defense for policy, is also responsible for coordinating space policy between other agencies and international partners.

The position is one of two new civilian jobs required under the legislation that formed the Space Force. Still to be created is an assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition.

New branch, new role: Space Force was created as the sixth branch of the military in December 2019 when President Trump signed the annual defense policy bill.

The service is aimed at protecting U.S. assets in space, such as satellites, from earthly threats, including U.S. adversaries Russia and China.

The new role is notable as it creates more civilian oversight within the freshly minted service, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist said in a statement.

"The establishment of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy is a change of the civilian oversight of the space enterprise that aligns with the establishment of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command," Norquist said.

More on who fills it: Johnson, a former Heritage Foundation analyst, had been the deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy since August.

That role was previously filled by Stephen Kitay, who was appointed by then-Defense Secretary James Mattis in May 2017 but departed this summer.


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Johnson has been at the Pentagon since 2016 as part of Trump's transition team before moving on to various roles.

He will be in his newest position "until such time as an individual is nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and appointed," according to the Pentagon.

NEW MISSILE SALE FOR AUSTRALIA: The State Department approved a possible $46 million sale to Australia for Javelin missiles, a sale that's likely to further draw the ire of nearby China following the announcement of a billion-dollar weapons sale to Taiwan.

Australia wants to buy 200 Javelin missiles and related equipment, which would "support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United State," according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

"Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region," according to an announcement of the possible sale.

Congress was notified of the deal on Friday.

Context: The sale comes on the heels of the U.S. announcement of billions of dollars in arms sales to Taiwan, which China has threatened to sanction several U.S. companies over.

Tensions between Beijing and D.C. have soured lately, as the United States has challenged China's increased aggression in the South China Sea.

President Trump has also blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 228,000 lives in the U.S.

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