CBO: Space Force Could Cost $3B Up Front, $1.3B Annually

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, testify to a House Appropriations subcommittee on budget hearing in May.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, testify to a House Appropriations subcommittee on budget hearing in May. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The new independent analysis comes as lawmakers weigh the creation of a new branch of the military.

Standing up a Space Force could cost taxpayers about $3 billion up front and add $1.3 billion to the Pentagon’s annual budget, according to a new Congressional Budget Office analysis.

While CBO did not analyze the Pentagon’s specific Space Force proposal, the organization’s report could influence the lawmakers who are reviewing the Trump administration’s request to create a new branch of the military, something that hasn’t been done since 1947.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Jack Reed, D-R.I., asked CBO to examine the costs of reorganizing the Pentagon’s space responsibilities.

CBO’s estimates are higher than the Pentagon’s; defense officials have said it would cost about $2 billion over five years to create the new service, and about $500 million per year to run it. The fiscal 2020 defense spending request includes $72 million to stand up a Space Force headquarters at the Pentagon.

“The $2 billion, in my view, is overstated,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee at a hearing Wednesday. “I think that detracts from the real value of the Space Force.”

Todd Harrison, a budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said CBO's estimates are likely higher due to “bad information” it received from the Air Force.

“CBO arrived at the higher number of new personnel [needed for the Space Force] in part because it assumed that no [Air Force] base operations, command, logistics, and medical personnel currently support space forces and therefore would not transfer to the new service,” Harrison tweeted soon after the report’s release.

In an interview, Harrison pointed out that all of those positions already exist at the Air Force’s space bases across the country and new positions would not be needed. Those positions, he said would simply transfer from the Air Force to the Space Force or just remain within the Air Force.

“That explains a lot of the difference between the cost of the Space Force that CBO came out with and what DoD came out with,” Harrison said.

While there has been overwhelming support for the creation of U.S. Space Command, a new combatant command for space warfighting, there have been vocal opponents to the standing up a Space Force and the Space Development Agency, a new satellite buying agency.

CBO estimates the new combatant command could cost between $520 million and $1 billion up front and an additional $80 to $120 million annually. A new satellite buying group could cost $220 million to $560 million upfront and an additional $240 million to $460 million annually.

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