Donald Trump’s Space Force will add billions of dollars to the Pentagon budget, exceeding previous estimates, even though the military has already committed 23,000 employees to monitor communications, observe the weather and track missile launches, according to a new study.
Trump’s Space Force would create an independent military service within the Department of the Air Force that would cost up to $3 billion up-front to set up and $1.3 billion annually to maintain.
The space service would include a new combatant command and a new agency that would be responsible for the development and acquisition of space systems, according to the administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020.
“Furthermore, the Administration has proposed creating a civilian Under Secretary for Space who would supervise the space service, report to the Secretary of the Air Force, and perhaps make policy about space,” the Congressional Budget Office report stated.
The move comes, after the United Nations, last October, launched an effort to study ways to prevent outer space from becoming another military battlefield.
“Taking into consideration the extreme fragility and volatility of the outer space environment, it must not be allowed to turn into another battlefield or a scene for military conflicts that could have catastrophic implications,” said a representative of the UN’s First Committee, which focuses on disarmament and international security.
Representatives from 25 countries met in Geneva, Switzerland in March to draft international laws to prevent space-based conflict.
But the delegates hit a roadblock when the U.S. representative accused China and Russia of undermining the entire process by developing anti-satellite weaponry, according to French news agency, France 24.
During the 1960s and 1970s a number of agreements were adopted to prevent the weaponization of outer space.
In 1963, The UN General Assembly adopted “The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space,” Three years later new provisions were added known as “The Outer Space Treaty.”
The Treaty stipulates that exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, and it shall be the province of mankind, according to The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit group that opposes the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
“Parties agree not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction; not to install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station them in outer space in any other manner,” the treaty states.
The treaty was ratified by 89 nations, including the United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain.
Trump’s proposed Space Force would fly in the face of those obligations.
The CBO examined five types of space organizations Defense Department (DoD) could create, including the three that the Administration has proposed:
- A new military service within a new military department that would be analogous to the Department of the Army and that would organize, train, and equip space forces.
- A new military service that would exist within the Department of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps exists within the Department of the Navy, and that would likewise organize, train, and equip space forces.
- A new combatant command that would be structured like the military’s Cyber Command and that would employ space capabilities in peacetime and during conflicts.
- A new agency that would be focused on developing and acquiring space systems and that would be analogous to the Missile Defense Agency.
- A new directorate that would make policy about space and that would be analogous to the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
The CBO estimated the number of new personnel that each of those five organizational options would require for overhead and management, the annual costs that those new personnel would entail and the onetime startup and transition costs of each option.
For example, CBO estimates that a new military department would require 5,400 to 7,800 new personnel for overhead and management and increase DoD’s annual costs by $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion.
A new service within the Department of the Air Force would be slightly smaller, requiring 4,100 to 6,800 personnel and increasing annual costs by $820 million to $1.3 billion.
A new policy directorate, by contrast, would require just 40 to 300 new personnel and increase DoD’s annual costs by $10 million to $60 million.
The options would also incur onetime startup and transition costs, mostly for building new facilities to house the new organizations. CBO estimates that those costs would amount to between $1 billion and $3 billion for a new department or service.
The Administration has provided few details about what the three organizations that it has proposed would look like or how large they would be.
For 2020, the initial year of creating those organizations, it has requested $306 million and 827 positions, and it has also stated that it plans to have the new organizations fully running within five years.
The Administration’s proposal would, when fully implemented, 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
Adding any new capabilities would increase those costs even more.
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday (May 8) held a hearing on the president’s space proposal. Administration officials tried to shoot down the CBO’s estimates.
“The $2 billion, in my view, is overstated. I think that detracts from the real value of the Space Force,” said Patrick Shanahan, the acting Defense secretary.
Congress would have to approve creation of a space force, and its cost has become an issue. Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., requested the CBO study.
Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as chairman of the National Space Council, had been beating the administration’s drum for a space force. He says space won’t just be the final frontier for exploration, but also for warfare.