Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, said he stands with the U.S. Air Force and its authority in knowing what is best for the aerospace industry, regardless of a perception that he’s breaking with the Republican Party on certain issues, like the creation of a space force.
“I am a 100-percent supporter of the U.S. Air Force, and this has zero to do with the president — this has to do with my opinion on what could happen in the future,” Knight said on Friday, after the Washington Post reported on Thursday Knight’s disdain over support of a “space force” proposed by the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump called for a sixth branch of the military in June that would be “separate, but equal” from the U.S. Air Force.
Knight was recorded in secret as saying about the space force, “If I get to say anything around Vice President (Mike) Pence when he comes to California, I won’t say that I disagree with it, but I do,” according to the Post.
Knight later clarified his comments to the Post: “I think if the vice president asked me what my opinion is, I would tell him. I’m not going to go up to the vice president and tell him, but if he asks, sure.
“I’m standing up for the U.S. Air Force here,” he added. “There’s nobody on the planet that does this better than they do.”
On Friday, Knight reiterated that he stood with the Air Force on all issues and their opinions.
“If you go to the U.S. Air Force website, one of their missions is to win in space, and I think they do an exceptional job, and I think they need more funding,” he said. “We’ve beefed them up in the National Defense Authorization Act, but there are no experts on winning in space besides the ones in the U.S. Air Force and that’s what I’m standing up for.”
Knight said the issue would likely evolve in the future, but he would wait and see before passing final judgment.
“This is something where, boy, I gotta disagree with the president here, because this is me looking at the issue with the U.S. Air Force as the experts,” he said. “They do a phenomenal job. So that’s who I’m supporting, and it has nothing to do with the president’s view on it.
“If this evolves into a position where I can support a space force, I’ll let you know,” he said. “But right now, the U.S. Air Force is in charge of space, and they are the experts. I’m standing up with them because I don’t see why we’re trying to pull one of their missions away from them. But it’s a fluid situation, and I’m a person who listens and will watch this as it evolves.”
The Santa Clarita Valley has many Air Force retirees, and the local aerospace industry includes the ability to test and evaluate Air Force planes here through companies like Crissair, Knight said.
Knight’s challenger in the 25th District Congressional race, Katie Hill, said she appreciated that Knight broke with Trump on this issue, as she believes a space force shouldn’t be a priority in the district.
“Yeah, we should be focusing more on the day-to-day issues that affect people in this district, like homelessness and affordable health care, more than a space force,” she said. “That’s what affects this community more, and what I want to bring to Congress is solving those issues.”
However, Knight was doing the bare minimum as a legislator in this regard when he said he would not stand up to Pence, she said.
“He admitted that he wouldn’t stand up to Vice President (Mike) Pence about it, and that is no surprise that, like usual, (Knight) says one thing to our community, but when given the opportunity won’t stand up for us to party leaders,” she said. “To me, it’s a sign of weakness.
“If I disagree with someone, people know it, which is my reputation, and I intend to stick with that,” she said. “Party leadership is going to know clearly if I don’t stand with them on an issue, and I think Steve needs to do that more. As a representative of the people, I owe it to them to let people know where I stand, and gather community feedback, so they know what I’m saying. That’s gonna determine my position and how I go back to leadership.”