We finally have a price tag for President Trump’s Space Force, a pet project that military officials have scrambled to organize since its proposal in June of last year. The prognosis: $2 billion over the next five years. Nice! Great that we just have that kind of money to sling around, for a thing that we definitely need.
The DoD sent a formal proposal for the Space Force to Congress on February 27, but didn’t release any of those plans publicly until today, when Defense News first reported the pricetag.
Per Defense News, here’s how some of that money shakes out:
However, senior department officials said March 1 that the Pentagon plans to spend about $72 million on setting up a headquarters for the service with about 200 staffers in fiscal 2020. As the force ramps up, those costs could rise to about $500 million per year. Those costs are in addition to the roughly $10 billion the Department of Defense already spends on unclassified space programs.
An executive summary of the legislative proposal stresses that the $2 billion represents “less than 0.05 percent” of the Pentagon’s expected budget during that five-year period, and adds that “more than 95% of the Space Force annual budget is estimated to consist of resources that will have been transferred from existing DoD budget accounts.”
It’s wild that $2 billion represents such a tiny shred of the overall military budget, but the dumbest part of all this is that Trump and willing military officials are trying to convince Congress to approve funding something that effectively already exists.
The Pentagon’s proposal would move 15,000 technical personnel under the Space Force umbrella by the end of the 2024 fiscal year. Proposals for a Space Force or Space Corps—Trump’s and earlier ones by Rep. Mike Rogers—also nest the organization as a subsidiary of the Air Force, like the Marines are to the Navy. Which would make sense, except that when Rogers first proposed the idea in 2017, the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson was pretty adamant that it wasn’t really necessary.
Here was her take then, per Breaking Defense:
In fact, they said, carving a “Space Corps” out of the Air Force — which handles most space missions today — would only make it harder to integrate space operations with warfare in the air, cyberspace, land, and sea.
“The Pentagon is complicated enough,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. And if I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy….I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff.”
The Pentagon’s proposal would move 15,000 technical personnel under the Space Force umbrella by the end of the 2024 fiscal year.
All of this seems like a pretty large undertaking to just hand Trump a political victory and do some reshuffling of the already-existing Air Force Space Command, but sure. It’s not like there’s anything else we could be using that money for instead.