Pentagon seeks $2B over five years for Space Force

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

The Trump administration plans to spend $2 billion over five years to create its Space Force, according to a Defense Department proposal released Friday.

The legislative proposal for the new service, which was sent to Congress on Wednesday, also includes plans to transfer 15,000 space-related personnel from elsewhere in the department to the new branch, which would fall under the Air Force.

{mosads}The move comes after Trump in June first ordered the Pentagon to create the Space Force as a separate branch of the military. Earlier this month, he signed a directive to establish it under the purview of the Air Force.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the proposal a “historic moment for our nation” and “a strategic step towards securing America’s vital national interests in space.”

“Our approach follows President Trump’s bold vision for space and commits resources to deliver more capability faster, ensuring the United States can compete, deter, and, if needed, win in a complex domain,” Shanahan said in a statement.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who rankled White House officials in December when she estimated that establishing a Space Force could cost $13 billion, said in a statement that the military “will continue to be the best in the world at space and establishing a dedicated space force strengthens our ability to deter, compete and win in space.”

To start the service, the Pentagon plans to ask for $72.4 million in its fiscal 2020 budget request “for approximately 200 personnel to stand up the [U.S. Space Force] headquarters,” according to a fact sheet for the legislative proposal.

The branch would be headed by a civilian in the newly created position of under secretary of the Air Force for space — to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate — as well as a chief of staff, a four-star general role. The chief of staff would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and “serve as the JCS expert on and advocate for space power.”

Defense officials estimate that “about 15,000 military and civilian personnel could transfer to the Space Force,” according to summary accompanying the proposal.

Most of the personnel would initially come from the Air Force, “but soldiers, sailors and Marines also will be considered for transfer to the new force,” the summary states.

Once fully established, the Pentagon expects the force to cost about $500 million annually to maintain, but the fact sheet notes that the estimate “will be refined through detailed planning.”

The Defense Department already spends about $10 billion on space programs that are unclassified, but Shanahan still must consult with service secretaries to “determine which existing space forces will transfer into” the newest branch after its creation.

The fact sheet seems to stress that the costs would be marginal when viewed through the larger lens of the Pentagon’s total budget.

“Total additional cost growth over the next five years is estimated to be less than [$2 billion], or [0.5 percent] of the DoD budget for the same period,” the document states.

In addition, about 95 percent of the Space Force’s yearly budget “consists of existing resources that have been transferred” from the existing military services.

Following the proposal’s release, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) applauded the administration for what he indicated was a pushback on Chinese and Russian threats.   

“We’ve known for some time that China and Russia are increasing their investment and challenging our dominance in space,” Inhofe said in a statement. “The threats are real, which is why I welcome the president’s legislative proposal for creating the U.S. Space Force.”

– This story was updated at 3:47 p.m. to correctly reflect cost estimates from the defense proposal

Tags Donald Trump James Inhofe Patrick Shanahan
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