The Air Force Wants More Planes - and a Lot More Money

First estimates for Space Force put cost at $13 billion over five years

Space: The Final Frontier for War?

President Donald Trump's proposal to create a "space force" would cost almost $13 billion over five years and require a sweeping reorganization of parts of the Pentagon and intelligence community - including shifting the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, Calif., into the new military service - according to an internal Air Force memo. Saying that growing threats from China and Russian Federation call for a substantial increase in USA air power, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Monday that she would like to see 74 more squadrons deployed by 2030.

In the recent fiscal budget rollout, lawmakers asked, " 'What do you need to execute the National Defense Strategy?' And we should know the answer to that question", Wilson said.

Wilson said now, the Air Force has returned to an era of great power competition. In general, proponents of a new force have argued that the Air Force has not done enough to prioritize space and that its other missions distract it from its focus on the world above.

"The Air Force is more ready for major combat operations today than we were two years ago", Wilson said.

Since 2016, the Air Force has focused on revitalizing squadrons, strengthening joint leaders and teams and advancing multi-domain command and control.

This is the first publicly available cost estimate.

And in a case of history repeating itself, it's also a debate that is familiar to the Air Force, seeing as the institution experienced a similar tug of war before it became the United States' newest service after World War II.

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The memo estimates that the space force would add 13,044 personnel to Pentagon rolls, including more than 7,900 space force officers and enlisted service members.

But opponents will probably seize on the Air Force estimate that building the space force will cost $3.3 billion in the first year and $12.9 billion over five years as evidence that it would be too costly for a defense budget likely to be severely stretched in coming years.

The Air Force is also working hard to recover from its maintainer shortage.

Shifting the Space and Missile Systems Center to the new service would move more than 5,000 military and civilian personnel who now work for the Air Force to the new service.

About one-sixth of USA federal spending goes to defense, according to the Congressional Budget Office. "But they are only concepts and, at some point, the Air Force will have to deal with budgetary realities as well".

Thompson said "if that means adding deputy PEOs with full PEO authority, then that's something we should consider and are [considering] under SMC 2.0".

Trump last month signed a massive, $716 billion defense policy bill meant to help address shortcomings in the USA military, which is trying to shift its focus to challenges posed by countries like China and Russian Federation after almost 17 years fighting militants in places like Afghanistan. "Now we are implementing the National Defense Authorization Act and its provision for a unified space command in line with the president's vision for a needed Space Force", Mattis said.

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