Space Force to Cost $13 Billion over 5 Years: Air Force Secretary

This Jan. 7, 2018 photo made available by SpaceX shows the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the "Zuma" U.S. satellite mission. (SpaceX via AP)
This Jan. 7, 2018 photo made available by SpaceX shows the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the "Zuma" U.S. satellite mission. (SpaceX via AP)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Defense Department will need roughly $12.9 billion over five years to resource the personnel and infrastructure behind the Trump administration's proposed U.S. Space Force, according to a recent memo authored by the Air Force's top civilian.

In the 14-page memo dated Sept. 14 and obtained by Military.com, Secretary Heather Wilson makes the case against a separate agency to oversee satellite acquisition, a move first championed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in a Pentagon report unveiled last month by Vice President Mike Pence.

It would cost the government $3.32 billion in the first year to stand up the separate corps, Wilson wrote. She estimates the force would require 13,000 personnel.

During an interview with Defense News on Tuesday, Wilson said the report is meant to clarify for top leaders what a "major undertaking" the proposed sixth branch would be and offer alternatives.

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"The other important thing here is that the costs here are additive costs," she said during the interview. "They are not just the movement of other capabilities and consolidat[ing] them. To stand up a department that's responsible for recruiting and training and planning and programming and budgeting and all of the leadership requirements that a department has, it's a major undertaking. It's a bold idea."

Shanahan's report recommends that a new combatant command, U.S. Space Command, be created by the end of this year, with the commander of Air Force Space Command temporarily "dual-hatted" to lead both. He laid out a Space Operations Force to be composed of personnel from all services, with experts in operations, intelligence, engineering, cyber and other fields made available to leaders of all combatant commands. His plan includes a Space Development Agency to harness innovation in addition to overseeing acquisition and procurement faster and more efficiently. It would be born out of the current Air Force Space and Missile Center, the report said.

Defense officials including Shanahan have said the intent is to include language in the fiscal 2020 defense budget to initially begin the Space Force process. Wilson in her memo said the FY20 budget "should include additive costs related to establishing the secretariat and headquarters staff element, the Space Force element, and the combatant command."

She continued, "All ongoing programs will remain as is until Congress establishes the new Department of the Space Force. We would anticipate that the Secretary of Defense would be given the authority to begin realigning programs, and the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request would reflect a realignment of all space programs."

Earlier Monday, Wilson unveiled the necessity for the Air Force to continue to hone the space mission in some way, announcing that seven new space squadrons would be a part of the service's 386 operational squadron plan, dubbed "The Air Force We Need."

The additional space squadrons are needed "so that we can dominate in space, where we have not been threatened in the past," Wilson said during her speech at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference.

"The threat to our space capabilities is growing. Last Friday, the Air Force delivered a proposal to our colleagues in the Department of Defense on the responsibilities and structure of a new Space Force," she said, referring to the memo. "... We don't need to wait for legislation [from Congress] to continue to accelerate defendable space. There are actions that the Air Force can take immediately without further action from Congress."

She concluded, "The Air Force is fully committed to ensuring the U.S. continues to lead in space. The president has brought space into the spotlight. Dominating in space has now become kitchen table conversation. And that will benefit this country."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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