Defense spending bill includes $15M to study Space Force

Defense spending bill includes $15M to study Space Force
© Getty Images

A House defense spending bill would provide $15 million to study plans for a Space Force rather than funding the establishment of the military branch as President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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 ShanahanOvernight Defense: US shoots down Iranian drone | Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia | Trump mulls Turkey sanctions | Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet 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.