Defense spending bill includes $15M to study Space Force

Defense spending bill includes $15M to study Space Force
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A House defense spending bill would provide $15 million to study plans for a Space Force rather than funding the establishment of the military branch as President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE requested.

The bill would allocate $15 million to “study and refine plans for the potential establishment of a Space Force as a branch of the Armed Forces,” according to draft bill text released Tuesday by House Democrats.

The text adds that “nothing in this provision shall be construed to authorize the establishment of a Space Force.”

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Asked for comment, a House Appropriations Committee spokesman highlighted remarks from Defense subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky at a May 1 hearing with acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE.

"The details for the actual implementation of Space Force are yet to be developed as I understand it  and is evidenced by the request for transfer authority for funding for a five year period with an additional two-year option as part of a legislative proposal," Visclosky said at the hearing. "It's easy to spend money this year and then we're stuck."

The Trump administration has proposed creating a Space Force that sits in the Department of the Air Force in a structure similar to the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Navy.

To begin setting up Space Force headquarters, the administration requested $72.4 million for fiscal 2020. The Pentagon has projected it would cost a total of $2 billion over five years to set up the service and $500 million annually to run it.

The idea to put a space military service under the Department of the Air Force follows a plan the House passed in 2017 for a space corps. But lawmakers in both parties have expressed concerns about the specifics of the Trump administration’s proposal.

Among the concerns are that the new service would be too top-heavy, as well as proposals to grant broad authority to transfer funding and waive civil service rules.

There have also been questions about the accuracy of the Pentagon’s price projection.

The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated setting up a new space military service under the Air Force could cost $1.1 billion to $3 billion up front, with annual costs of $820 million to $1.3 billion.

The administration also plans to set up a U.S. Space Command to focus on war-fighting and a Space Development Agency to handle acquisition. The Pentagon asked for $83 million to stand up Space Command and $150 million to create the Space Development Agency.

The defense spending bill released Tuesday would withhold funding for the Space Development Agency until 90 days after the Pentagon gives Congress a detailed plan for the agency.

Updated at 4:32 p.m.