The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a report released Wednesday that the US administration’s proposed plan to create a new Space Force could increase related annual Pentagon costs by $1 billion to nearly $2 billion, while also requiring startup costs of $2 billion to nearly $5 billion.
This estimate for the proposed reorganisation of the military’s space enterprise comes despite acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan calling the previously announced $2 billion price tag “overstated” earlier in the day.
“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.
An independent Space Force military branch, according to the CBO report estimate, would need 5,400 to 7,800 new personnel, thus hiking the Pentagon’s annual costs by $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion.
There is an option to cut costs somewhat by placing the new service within the Air Force – the move proposed in the Defense Department’s fiscal 2020 budget request.
Trump also signed off on establishing the US Space Command to oversee space operations, with the administration proposing a new agency that would be responsible for the development and acquisition of space systems.
The three organisations proposed for FY2020 would jointly 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,” the CBO estimates.
The administration has only requested $306 million and 827 new positions for FY2020, the initial year of creating those organisations, stating it plans to have the new organisations fully running within five years' time.
When it came time to explaining the rationale for the Space Force, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the proposal “threat-driven”.
He said threats are “increasing and the importance of and the opportunities in space are growing.”
Shanahan also argued the Space Force is needed to centralise the management of space activities.
In December, US President Donald Trump established the Space Command, which is to become a new branch within the Pentagon, subsequently signing a directive that ordered the Pentagon to establish the US Space Force, which would operate as the sixth branch of the armed forces within the Air Force.
Although the Space Force would initially operate as part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy, the eventual goal is for the Space Force to operate as an independent branch of the military.
The push to create a US space force was prompted by the efforts of potential adversaries to develop space-based military capabilities, according to the directive.