Officials Give Widely Varying Estimates on Cost of Space Force

Defense One reports that senior Pentagon officials remain widely apart on what the Space Force will cost to set up.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday told reporters at the Pentagon that it would cost “single digit, not a double-digit” billions of dollars. “It might be lower than $5” billion, he said.

About two hours later, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson defended her service’s far higher estimate. In September, she estimated that standing up a Space Force and a new combatant command for space warfare would cost about $13 billion over five years. (Shanahan did not specify the timeframe for his $5 billion estimate on Thursday.)

“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,” she said at the Defense One Summit. “Whatever is put forward needs to implement the president’s proposal,” she said.

  • Tom Billings

    There will continue to be wildly different estimates, because there are wildly different motivations behind the estimates. The Air Force still wants to sink the idea of a separate Service. They want the budget they have had for Space Command to continue to be under the Air Staff’s control. To do this, they want the new Service to pay for everything brand new from day one right down to brand new HQ facilities, and to have no more control over present AF rice bowls than Space Command does today, which is essentially zero. Spend a lot, and do little more than the Air Staff approves of today.

    The DoD, meanwhile, wants a phased in Service that starts with SDA, and gradually takes over all present AF space activities, , and their budgets, and gets some of the bases the AF has wanted to close for decades as their new HQ facilities, with minimal new equipment overhead. They will immediately begin with the new supporting procurement policies that make so many in Congress so nervous. After all, when a Space Development Agency insists on developing something in 12 months, instead of 12 years, the chances for Congress members to “suggest” subcontractors to prime contractors will shrink steeply.

  • duheagle

    Yes, “customary graft” would probably have to be added to the Endangered Species List. The smarter dinosaurs are probably – correctly – more concerned that this newfangled high-Mach-number procurement thing could escape the USSF and spread to the older parts of the DoD establishment.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heather is closer to being correct

  • Tom Billings

    Certainly her Staff has more people in place who will try to make that so. Their careers depend on it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I am not on her staff and I agree with her. there is no demonstrated need for a “space force”, it goes against the entire notion of “joint” commands and is in all respect like Trumps wall or his deployment of troops on the border…a make work for the dull project

  • Tom Billings

    It is not about Joint Commands, which are Combat Commands. It is about long-term sustainment of MilSpace capability that can survive conflict while still contributing its “force multiplier” effects to US armed strength. The Air Force *will*not* build that sustainable capability for MilSpace, as they have demonstrated for decades.

    Any military must both fight in conflict(Joint Commands) and recruit, live, train and equip themselves in peacetime. That is why we have a separate establishment for a Navy and an Army, etc. Their Staffs must focus on spending for their recruiting, living, training, and equipping in peacetime. Since the AF Air Staff *will*not* do that for MilSpace, there should be a separate Service, with a separate Space Staff to do that job.

    Your tribalism in regards Trump is not of interest.

  • Robert G. Oler

    you are making statements that are basically in error

    “That is why we have a separate establishment for a Navy and an Army, etc.”

    Nope we have an Army, Navy, USMC, AF, Coast Guard because each has demonstrated an offensive capability which is unique to their specific expertise…not because they are “force multipliers”

    there is no evidence that the USAF has failed to maintain adequate space capabilities to accomplish its (and the other services) offensive capabilities that need space assets.

    name me a single example of sustained capability that is lacking

    calling Trump a headline grabber and little else is factual you chose to ignore that, that is your problem but that is in reality the centerpiece of his “situation”

  • Tom Billings

    “Nope we have an Army, Navy, USMC, AF, Coast Guard because each
    has demonstrated an offensive capability which is unique to their
    specific expertise…not because they are “force multipliers””

    You again managed to ignore my point. The reason we have a separate establishment for each of these Services is because they must “recruit, live, train and equip themselves in peacetime.” Your statement is equivalent to denying that MilSpace makes makes a large contribution to conflict on here Earth. That has been demonstrated as a supremely foolish attitude over the last 30 years. To say “if you ain’t a shootin’, then you ain’t a fightin'” is as foolish as the ancient Greek poets that sneered at archers, because they did not close with the enemy, shoulder to shoulder with the armored hoplites.

    MilSpace has made its contribution, so far, in a *permissive* environment, where no one tries to disable MilSpace assets. With the stand up of the PLA “Strategic Support Force” and the “Space Troops of the Russian Aerospace Force”, tasked specifically with space war, the permissive environment is ending. US MilSpace actions must then change to reflect a potentially hostile environment in Space for our MilSpace assets and their capabilities.

    Since it has been demonstrated that the USAF Air Staff *will*not* pay sufficient peacetime attention to building MilSpace assets for conflict that extends into Space, then we must form a separate Service, with its own Space Staff, that *will* do so.

    “name me a single example of sustained capability that is lacking”

    The capabilities of US MilSpace are expressed through a few dozen operational assets that are thoroughly vulnerable to being disabled by several means. Disable 3 dozen of these assets in a few hours, and the US Navy will be very hard-pressed to survive, much less win, in the Western Pacific. This has been pointed out by PLA officers in the open literature since 2003, and they have had different ASAT systems under test since 2007. For the last 12 months those “Space Troops of the Russian Aerospace Force” have been testing sats that can closely “stalk” other nation’s satellites, by doing just that.

    This can be countered, for a while, by 2 means that continue to go unfunded through the Air Staff. First, by dispersing the US MilSpace capabilities throughout a far larger number of assets, between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude more mass-produced assets, on the scale of StarLink. Second, by bringing to service a “responsive launch” capability that can bring the average replacement time for a disabled asset down from 3+ years to 72 hours.

    This combination will be effective until opponents advance their own logistical capabilities, at which time we will have to move our assets farther from Earth, and build further logistical supporting lines to keep them operating even when a “responsive launch” capability can be interdicted. The Air Staff not only has been unwilling to do these things, they have, since 2003 requested “reprogramming” of funds from Space Command regularly, to help keep over 50% of their fighter squadrons combat ready, instead of going to Congress for more money.

    Again, your interest in Trump is irrelevant. The vast majority of impact a US Space Force will have in the future will happen *after* January 2025, by which time Trump will fading into retirement.

  • Robert G. Oler

    the point(s) you are trying to make is absurd

    first The reason we have a separate establishment for each of these Services
    is because they must “recruit, live, train and equip themselves in
    peacetime.” Y

    no matter how many times you say it,, its not accurate. At “best” to make that statement accurate after “peacetime” you need to add “in the offensive and defensive roles which are useful in term of war”

    and then you cannot name a single “role” that your spaceforce would be useful in

    “Disable 3 dozen of these assets in a few hours, and the US Navy will be
    very hard-pressed to survive, much less win, in the Western Pacific”

    and if Hitler could have bombed the US he might have won the war. the problem is that “disabling 3 dozen” of these assets is beyond the capability of any country right now, including the US. The Chinese and Russians (and us) have a limited asat capability but to disable what 36 or so satellites in a few hours, and us not retaliate likewise (which we could) is unlikely

    “. First, by dispersing the US MilSpace capabilities throughout a far
    larger number of assets, between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude more
    mass-produced assets, on the scale of StarLink. ”

    only in the world of people who think Elon is on the verge of Gas and go or lowering cost to orbit by amounts where Star link is affordable…is this a problem. USAF doctrine is moving toward force distribution as well as to make sure that assured access to space on a rapid level is possible. the US is moving far far faster than any other country in the world

    “”reprogramming” of funds from Space Command regularly, to help keep over
    50% of their fighter squadrons combat ready, instead of going to
    Congress for more money.

    there is no more money, in fact less is coming

    You have constantly put up false statements as reasons for doing something, that is already in large measure “in work”

    the good news is that with a Dem Congress the space farce, oh sorry Force is dead.

    and that is a good thing when you have something real let me know

    until then you are in Trump land

  • Tom Billings

    ” At “best” to make that statement accurate after “peacetime” you need
    to add “in the offensive and defensive roles which are useful in term of
    war

    and then you cannot name a single “role” that your spaceforce would be useful in”

    Do you mean you are ignorant of the recon, navigation and communications roles MilSpace has always had? Do you expect US Forces to operate anywhere near as competently without them? Oh, of course. Since that lack has not *yet* produced more body bags, you are uninterested.

    This policy discussion is over Robert. You are too fascinated by the politics, and too willing to believe things won’t change, and change fast.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Do you mean you are ignorant of the recon, navigation and communications roles MilSpace has always had?|

    those are not offensive roles

    Space Force is dead for two years…move on