Pentagon official: Trump's Space Force could cost up to $10 billion

Pentagon official: Trump's Space Force could cost up to $10 billion
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE's plan to create a new Space Force could cost much less than an Air Force estimate of $13 billion over five years, the Pentagon's No. 2 official said Thursday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that the estimated cost of creating a separate branch of the military was “a single digit, not a double digit.”

When asked to specify, Shanahan said the number was between $5 billion and $10 billion but added that it “might be lower than five, it could be lower.”

Trump ordered the Pentagon in June to begin forming a plan for a Space Force. During a speech at the Pentagon in August, Vice President Pence outlined the steps the administration is taking to carry out the plan, with Shanahan tasked with overseeing the effort.

A memo from Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson that was widely leaked in September estimated that the Space Force could cost $13 billion, including $3 billion its first year and $10 over the following four years.

The memo, dated Aug. 14, also estimated that the Space Force would need about 13,000 new personnel.

Proponents of the Space Force criticized the number as inflated in order to deter lawmakers from funding the project.

The Trump administration has said it wants the establishment of a Space Force included in next year’s defense policy bill, but members of both chambers of Congress have remained divided over the issue.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R-Okla.), a Trump ally, has said he has an open mind but is awaiting more cost details.

Democrats in the House, however, have grown more wary of the Space Force idea.

Current House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithTrump team spurns Adam Smith with its trade stance Top Armed Services Republican: 'I don't think anybody is satisfied' with Space Force proposal Overnight Defense: House votes to condemn transgender military ban | 5 Republicans vote against ban | Senate bill would block Turkey getting F-35s over Russia deal MORE (D-Wash.), who supported the House’s space corps plan last year, came out against Space Force in September. He said that the military needs to do a better job of prioritizing its presence in space but a separate branch is not the most cost-effective way to do so.

Asked whether he thinks Democrats' new power in the House starting in January will affect the Pentagon’s Space Force plans, Shanahan said he expects to face questions about the cost of such a proposal.

“I spent time with Adam Smith in the past. ... I think with potentially chairman Smith in place, what he’s said is he wants to focus on cost and efficiency, so I think that those are the kinds of questions we’ll be expected to address, and I think in our legislative proposal – I meet twice a week with our space governance committee – we’re really diligently putting together a proposal that can withstand the cost scrutiny questions,” he said. 

When pressed on whether it’ll be less likely the Pentagon will get approval for the creation of the new military branch, he replied, “I don’t think so.” 

“Here’s what I feel very confident about, that the proposal that we’re going to carry forward makes sense.”