Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifts off from the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifts off from the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. Steve Helber/AP

Space Force Actually May Be a Bargain, New Cost Estimate Says

“At this point it may be a coin toss whether or not this makes it through,” says Todd Harrison.

Space Force — the new branch of the U.S. military desired by President Trump — could cost taxpayers as much as $21.5 billion per year, but only $550 million of that would be new money, according to a budget analyst.

The estimate from Washington’s resident defense spending guru Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that creating a Space Force, large or small, amounts to nothing more than a reorganization in which money would be transferred out of the Air Force, Army and Navy into the new military service. Harrison’s estimates assume a version of Space Force smaller than what the U.S. Air Force has proposed, which includes several additional agencies, and closer to what the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense is seeking.

“Most of this is just a simple matter of reorganization and whether or not you think that’s worth it,” Harrison said Monday. “The added cost is a handful of F-35s or less than the audit. I don’t think cost actually should be that big of factor in their decision. I think a bigger factor is whether or not it’s needed.”

An Air Force F-35 in fiscal 2020 is expected to cost about $80 million each. Harrison believes a Space Force would only cost between $300 million and $550 million per year in additional funds.  Harrison compared the costs for small, medium, and large-sized forces. A lesser Space Corps kept within the Air Force comprised of about 27,300 uniformed military and civilians would cost about $11.3 billion annually, he said. A “Lite” Space Force — of about 35,800 military and civilians would cost about $13.4 billion annually. A “Heavy” Space Force of about 48,500 military and civilian workers would cost about $21.5 billion annually.

“Ninety-six percent of the funding in all three options is not new funding, it’s just transfers from other accounts that already exist in the services,” Harrison said.

Depending on which option is taken, Harrison estimates  Trump’s space expansion of the military would cost taxpayers an additional $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion over five years.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who is overseeing the creation of the Space Force, said last week at the Pentagon that it would cost “single digit, not a double-digit” billions of dollars to create the new branch. “It might be lower than $5” billion, Shanahan said.

Harrison said his estimate lines up with the defense secretary’s, but wants to see more than estimates.

“One of the golden rules in budget analysis is never rely on budget data that is presented orally,” Harrison said. “Until he’s written it down, we don’t really know for sure what he meant.”

Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, said Monday that the deputy secretary estimates last week were over a five-year period.

One unique feature of the expected space service is that more than half of its personnel  are expected to be civilian workers, Harrison said. The other services only have a civilian workforce that account for 10 to 36 percent of size. “It would be a more civilian-heavy service than any of the others,” he said.

Harrison’s estimates, however, are vastly different from what the more comprehensive Space Force recommended by the Air Force. His do not include standing up U.S. Space Command, a warfighting combatant command; a Space Development Agency, for overseeing satellite and launch purchases; and shifting intelligence agencies, like the National Reconnaissance Office, into the Space Force.

The Air Force estimate — which concluded about $13 billion would be needed over a five-year period to stand up a Space Force — assumed those additional organizations would fall under the umbrella of the new military branch. Harrison said he stands by a previous criticism of that estimate, which he called “an example of malicious compliance.”Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, speaking last week at the Defense One Summit, defended her estimate.

“Our cost estimate that we gave to a lot of people in the Pentagon in September was the cost of a fully-fledged, stand-alone department and also a unified combatant command,” Wilson said. “What we put forward was cost estimates to implement a stand-alone department.”

A senior defense official, speaking on background, said Harrison’s Space Force does not take into account buying new satellites or creating missions that would improve the U.S. military’s space warfighting capabilities.

“It just shuffles the deck in the hope of drawing a better hand,” the senior official said. “It’s Space Force on the cheap. In more direct terms, it doesn’t solve any problems.”

Harrison said he did not include the intelligence agencies in his estimates because their budgets are classified. An early draft of the Pentagon’s Space Force proposal, which it plans to send to Congress in February, does not propose moving NRO into the new military branch.

Despite Trump’s desire to create a Space Force, in the end, a spit Congress, with Republicans controlling the Senate and Democrats the House, will have the final.

“I would say at this point it may be a coin toss whether or not this makes it through,” Harrison said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.