CBO confirms nearly $2 billion Space Force price tag

CBO confirms nearly $2 billion Space Force price tag
© Getty

The Trump administration’s proposed plan to create a new Space Force could increase annual Pentagon costs by $1 billion to nearly $2 billion and require one-time startup costs of $2 billion to nearly $5 billion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a report released Wednesday.

The estimate for the proposed major reorganization of the military’s space enterprise comes as acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE earlier in the day called the previously floated $2 billion price tag “overstated.” 

“The $2 billion, in my view, is overstated. I think that detracts from the real value of the Space Force,” Shanahan said during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.


CBO found that an independent Space Force military branch would need 5,400 to 7,800 in new personnel for overhead and management. It would increase the Pentagon’s annual costs by $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion. 

Another plan to place the new service within the Air Force – the move proposed in the Defense Department’s fiscal 2020 budget request - would cost slightly less, “requiring 4,100 to 6,800 such personnel and increasing annual costs by $820 million to $1.3 billion,” according to the report. 

The Trump administration has proposed creating a Space Force within the Air Force, a relationship similar to that of the Marine Corps to the Navy, with the argument that threats from other countries necessitate a greater focus from the military in space.

Pentagon officials argued a separate military branch for space is inevitable as Russia and China increasingly look to space for military purposes.

Only Congress can create a new military branch, but President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeteran, state lawmaker launches bid against Democratic NC governor Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports Dozens of British lawmakers stand behind minority lawmakers amid Trump attacks MORE has signed off on the set-up of the U.S. Space Command, a new combatant command that would oversee space operations.

In addition, the administration has proposed a new agency that would be responsible for the development and acquisition of space systems.

The three organizations proposed for FY2020, taken together, would require “5,700 to 9,700 new positions for overhead and management, increase DOD’s annual costs by $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion, and incur onetime costs of $1.8 billion to $4.7 billion,” CBO estimates. 

The administration has only requested $306 million and 827 new positions for FY2020, the initial year of creating those organizations. It has said that it plans to have the new organizations fully running within five years.

Lawmakers, however, have shown a skepticism over the administration’s Space Force plans, questioning the specifics of the Trump proposal and the need for a new service in the first place.