Tag Archives: Space Force

New cost figures for Space Force

A budget analysis by a Washington think tank has proposed a new range of cost figures for a Defense Department unit devoted to space operations.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, unveiled a highly anticipated report on Monday, detailing cost estimates for standing up a Space Force as a separate military branch. Harrison made headlines in September when he criticized Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s estimate — $13 billion over five years to establish a new service and a space command — as overinflated.

Harrison estimated it would cost the Pentagon an additional $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion over five years to stand up a new service, based on the assumption that more than 96 percent of the cost would be covered from existing budget accounts within DoD. Harrison’s numbers, however, are hard to compare directly with the Air Force secretary’s because they do not include costly items that Wilson put into her proposal, such as a Space Command and additional programs and people she argued would be needed to fight rising space rivals China and Russia.

Harrison laid out cost numbers for three options — a Space Corps, a Space Force Lite and a Space Force Heavy. The total annual budget of the new service would range from $11.3 billion to $21.5 billion under the three options. None includes the National Reconnaissance Office whose size and budget are classified.

These options are a much more realistic analysis of the costs for a military reorganization of its space operations. For example, most of the money for these options is already being spent, with the cheapest option including $11 billion of its $11.3 billion cost figure from present allocations.

I however now ask: Why are we spending $11 billion for offices in the Pentagon, with staffing exceeding 27,000? From what I can gather, these budget numbers do not appear to include the cost for any actual military satellite launches. It seems to me this should be doable with far fewer people, especially if the Pentagon is hiring private companies to build the satellites themselves.

Share

Defense offers much lower $5 billion Space Force cost

The deputy defense secretary yesterday said that the cost for creating a Space Force should be around $5 billion, not $13 billion as proposed by the Air Force.

The cost to create President Trump’s Space Force could be lower than $5 billion and certainly will be in the single-digit billions, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at a briefing Thursday, pushing back against Air Force estimates that put the price tag at $13 billion or more.

Shanahan, the lead Pentagon official working on the Space Force, expressed confidence the project would come to fruition — even though Democrats taking over the House have opposed it and the White House has broadly ordered the Pentagon to cut costs.

It appears that he is proposing that the military avoid the creation of a full-fledged new branch of the military and simply reorganize its space bureaucracy into a single office. This would not require Congressional approval, and is also what the military has been considering for the last few years.

Five billion however for an office still seems an ungodly amount of money to me. But then, this is how corrupt Washington functions.

Share

Democratic control of House threatens Space Force and SLS

Two articles today suggest that the switch to Democratic control of the House will threaten funding for both Trump’s Space Force as well as NASA’s SLS/Orion program.

I say, “Hallelujah!” Both are boondoggles of the worst kind, and illustrated how really uncommitted the Republicans in the House were to cutting spending. SLS/Orion has cost more than $40 billion so far, and will likely cost $60 billion before its first manned launch, and will take twenty years to fly a single manned mission. Space Force meanwhile is really nothing more than a consolidated space office in the Pentagon, and yet the Pentagon is proposing it will cost $13 billion for its first five years.

Both are pure pork, and if the Democrats want to garner real voter support they will stop with the “Resist Trump!” stupidity and shut both down, shifting support instead for private space.

Share

Musk endorses Trump’s Space Force proposal

In a long hour long interview (which you can listen to at the link), Elon Musk endorsed President Trump’s proposal to create a Space Force.

Elon Musk sees a new branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as “obvious” as Americans travel far off the planet. “It’s basically defense in space. And then I think also it could be pretty helpful for maybe expanding our civilization,” Musk told Kara Swisher on a new episode of Recode Decode. “I do think it will become obvious over time that a Space Force is a sensible thing to do.”

Donald Trump pitched the new military operation this year, and hopes to have it running by 2020, bringing the military into conversation with space leaders like NASA and Musk’s SpaceX. It would sit alongside branches like the Army and the Air Force.

Musk described the agency as similar to the Air Force, something he said was criticized as unnecessary when air wars were managed by the Army but which is now a specialized division. “And people today may not realize back then it was wildly penned as a ridiculous thing to create the Air Force, but now everyone’s like, ‘Obviously you should have an Air Force,’” Musk said. “And I think it’s gonna become obvious that we should have a Space Force, too.”

I don’t have time now to listen to the hour-plus-long interview, but it appears Musk talked about other things of interest, making worth one’s time.

Share

Trump moves forward on Space Force; commercial space reorganization

In a speech by Mike Pence yesterday the Trump administration outlined its continuing plans to moves forward with a new military branch focused on space as well as a reorganization of the bureaucracies that regulate commercial space into a single Commerce Department agency.

Pence said the National Space Council and National Security Council will review space operational authorities “to ensure that our warfighters have the freedom and flexibility they need to deter and defeat any threat to our security in the rapidly evolving battlefield of space.” A lack of centralized leadership and accountability threatened U.S. ability to “advance our national security in space,” Pence said. “The time has come to stop studying the problem and start fixing it.”

The Trump administration in August announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military by 2020. Such a change, which the Defense Department has estimated would cost $13 billion in the first five years, must first be approved by Congress. Pence said at an earlier Washington Post forum that China and Russia have established similar space forces. “This is what our competitors are already doing. And the president is determined to make sure that America leads in space, as well, from a military standpoint,” he said.

…The proposed bill would also create the Bureau of Space Commerce under the U.S. Department of Commerce to liaise with industry representatives and organizations, according to a copy provided to Reuters. It also calls for $10 million per year for five years starting in 2020 to fund the commerce arm.

I am traveling up to Phoenix as I write this to be a talking head on a Science channel television show, so I haven’t yet reviewed carefully this proposal. Based on the quote above, the cost for the Space Force is absurd. This is an office, not a military force. At $13 billion it looks more like gold-plated pork.

Meanwhile, the proposed Commerce agency makes sense only if it truly replaces other bureaucracies. I am not yet sure that will happen.

Share

Competing proposals for military space operations

Turf war! Even as Trump is pushing for a new Space Force, the military bureaucracy is proposing competing proposals for rearranging its space bureaucracy.

Some of the details are a bit in the weeds but the following lays out some of the basics

Griffin and Wilson take very different approaches.

In her memo, Wilson suggests the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office and that it should be geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command. She recommends using “existing structures designed and chartered to acquire capabilities rapidly, rather than establishing new structures.”

Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress.

In Wilson’s plan, the Space Development Agency and other acquisition organizations would transition to the new Department of the Space Force. She pointedly pushes back on the idea of having an assistant secretary of defense for space or a Space Development Agency that reports to that office. She argues that such a setup would create additional bureaucracy that would be removed from the operators who use and maintain the equipment.

Griffin, a former NASA administrator, seems more focused in his proposal in transitioning the military towards using private commercial assets rather than building its own, but his apparent love for building his own empire might work against that stated goal.

Share

Air Force estimates Space Force cost at $13 billion for first 5 years

Pork! Air Force has now released its first estimate for establishing a Space Force, with an estimated cost of $13 billion for first five years.

A copy of the Air Force memo was obtained Monday by The Associated Press. The memo says the first-year cost of a Space Force would be $3.3 billion, and the cost over five years would be an estimated $12.9 billion.

As I have said, this is nothing more than pork. At this stage all that needs to happen is a reorganization that would put all space activities in a single office in the Air Force. This is also what the Air Force has wanted to do. Creating a whole new military branch at this time is overkill, and will merely result in too much bureaucracy, for only one reason, to spend money.

Share

State Department claims orbiting Russian satellite is a military threat

At a conference yesterday a State Department official claimed that an orbiting Russian satellite is behavior in a manner that suggests an unstated military purpose.

Russia has described the satellite in question as a “space apparatus inspector,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance at the U.S. State Department, said at a conference on disarmament in Geneva yesterday. “But its behavior on orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational-awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection-satellite activities. We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior by a declared ‘space apparatus inspector,”’ Poblete said.

“We don’t know for certain what it is, and there is no way to verify it,” she added. “But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development — particularly when considered in concert with statements by Russia’s Space Force commander, who highlighted that ‘assimilate[ing] new prototypes of weapons [into] Space Forces’ military units’ is a ‘main task facing the Aerospace Forces space troops.'”

If you read the whole speech, you will discover that much of this is somewhat overstated, and that it is simply part of the Trump administration’s aggressive lobbying in favor of creating a Space Force. I don’t deny that this satellite could be testing technologies that could have military uses. I can also recognize it when a government official is trying to use the press to advocate for more funding. At no point does Poblete describe in detail the behavior that makes them think this satellite is doing things “inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational-awareness capabilities.” In fact, if it is making unusual orbital changes that is very consistent with these purposes since any satellite designed to make orbital inspections of other facilities would need that capability.

In fact, I bet it isn’t the satellite’s activity that concerns them, but its vague description. The Russians really haven’t told us what it is. While this is surely a concern, this speech’s purpose is to lobby for the Space Force, not pressure the Russians to provide more information.

Share

Pence outlines Trump administration’s plans for Space Force

In a speech today vice president Mike Pence laid out the Trump administration’s plans for eventually establishing a new Space Force branch in the military.

The first step would be to create a U.S. Space Command by the end of the year, a new combatant command that would have dedicated resources, be led by a four-star general and be tasked with defending space, the way the Pentagon’s Pacific Command oversees the ocean. The Pentagon will also begin pulling space experts from across the military and setting up a separate acquisitions office, dedicated to buying satellites and developing new technology to help it win wars in space.

…In his speech, Pence acknowledged the difficulties in standing up a new service, and said the Pentagon would create an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, a new top level civilian position reporting to the Secretary of Defense “to oversee the growth and expansion of the sixth branch of service.”

The new command and reorganization “should be budget neutral,” Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an interview. “However, going forward there probably will need to be an increase in resources to buy improved capabilities and more warfighters as the Space Force matures.”

The White House has pushed for Congress to invest an additional $8 billion in national security space systems over the next five years. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sentences explain everything. The fundamental goal here is not really to improve the country’s space defenses. The real goal is to funnel more money into the federal bureaucracy.

Reorganizing how the Defense Department runs its space operations makes great sense. And it appears the Defense Department has been moving to do so in the past few years. This push for a Space Force now however has nothing to do with that reorganization, as indicated by the opposition in Defense to Trump’s proposed Space Force. To quote the article again:

The creation of a Space Force has met with opposition, inside and out of the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a memo last year to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) he opposed “the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.”

They don’t need it right now, and it will only grow their bureaucracy unnecessarily, which will actually interfere with their effort to streamline and reorganize its space operations.

This effort by Trump to create this new bureaucracy illustrates why he is not the conservative some people imagine him to be. He might shrink the government in some places (EPA), but he is eager to grow it elsewhere. And the last thing we need now is a bigger federal government in any department. None function well, and they all cost too much and are sucking the life out of the American dream.

Share

Congress nixes Space Force, for now

You can put your decoder rings back in the attic! The Defense authorization for fiscal year 2019 that has now been negotiated between the House and Senate does not include any mention of Trump’s proposed “Space Force.”

President Trump himself has taken center stage in advocating for a Space Force. While the terms Space Corps and Space Force are sometimes used interchangeably, Space Corps notionally refers to an entity with the Air Force while Space Force is separate from the Air Force. Trump made clear last month what he wants: “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal.”

The President cannot accomplish that on his own, however. Congress must authorize and fund a new service. Because of the attention Trump is bringing to the issue, one question was whether the NDAA conference committee might say something about it even though the House- and Senate-passed bills did not.

The answer is no. While the conference report adopts the House provision requiring creation of a U.S. Space Command within USSTRATCOM to carry out joint space warfighting and addresses a number of other space issues, it does not require creation of a Space Force or Space Corps (or another alternative, a Space Guard similar to the Coast Guard). The conference report does require the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and a plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for space as a warfighting domain (Sec. 1607).

In other words, Congress has punted, for the moment. They have not said no to the idea, but they also are not ready to create a new armed force devoted expressly to fighting war in space.

Makes sense to me. A military force in space is going to be necessary, without question and especially because of the terms imposed on us by the Outer Space Treaty. It just isn’t the time yet for such a thing.

Share

Trump orders Defense Dept to create “Space Force”

The swamp wins! President Trump today issued an order that the Defense Department create a separate branch of the military to be called the Space Force.

The president then ordered the secretary of defense to “establish a space force of the sixth branch of the armed forces.” He called on General Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to help create the new arm of American military might.

Trump also blathered that he will “establish a long-term presence on the Moon,” followed by a mission to Mars.

In other words, he is all-in on LOP-G, the next big boondoggle following SLS.

For me, this is very depressing. It indicates that government space policy will continue to be bankrupt, spending money on big projects that never get finished and on a worthless military department that will be entirely useless.

Share

Trump mentions interest in creating military “Space Force”

Blather and pork: In comments to soldiers in San Diego President Trump yesterday expressed interest in creating a military “Space Force” similar to the Air Force

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said during a Tuesday speech at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “We may even have a Space Force, develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy.”

The administration’s National Security Strategy, released in December, repeatedly identifies space as a contested domain, a somewhat more dire take than its Obama-era predecessors, which recognized “threats posed by those who may wish to deny the peaceful use of outer space.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said. “And I was not really serious, but I said, ‘What a great idea.’ Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”

Trump as usual is talking off the cuff, but might very well have a negotiating purpose. There are members of Congress who want it. Trump could possibly be considering a trade, I give you that, you let me cut this.

Or not. It is dangerous to over analyze many of Trump’s off-the-cuff statements. Many times he just does them to get some publicity and to annoy his opponents. Note also that top Air Force officials dodged this issue when asked at hearings to comment on Trump’s statement.

Bottom line however remains the same: Spending money on a Space Force dedicated to fighting in space would be, at this time, a complete waste of money. It would be pork, pure and simple.

Share