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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 TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: 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.”

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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.

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges 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 SmithOvernight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Top Senate Democrat backs waiver for Biden Pentagon nominee 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.”