Pentagon sends Congress timetable for proposed Space Force

Pentagon sends Congress timetable for proposed Space Force

Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, addresses the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association members during their 24th annual luncheon, Feb. 21 at the Jackson Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Samantha Hill/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON — A new space force will cost roughly $2 billion to create over the next five years, transferring 15,000 individuals from other service branches, the Pentagon said Friday.

Additional resources will be required later for such things as a Space Force headquarters and perhaps a training academy, the Pentagon said.

“This is an historic moment for our nation,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement Friday.

“The Department of Defense’s legislative proposal to establish the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces is a strategic step towards securing America’s vital national interests in space,” he said. “Our approach follows President Trump’s bold vision for space and commits resources to deliver more capability faster, ensuring the United States can compete, deter, and, if needed, win in a complex domain.”

The proposal had been quietly delivered to Congress on Wednesday but the Pentagon did not release details until today.

It said the force start-up would cost $72 million in fiscal year 2020, primarily to centralize a headquarters for the new entity. The initial contingent to staff the headquarters and direct creation would be about 200 uniformed and civilian personnel, the Pentagon said.

In January, President Donald Trump signed a directive that ordered the space force to be part of the Department of the Air Force, similar to how the Marine Corps is an augment within the Department of the Navy.

That directive prompted the Pentagon to say it is creating a U.S. Space Command — an entity that combines space elements of all the service branches and would be made moot if an independent Space Force is established. That new command is on track to be created by summer.

According to the proposal, the Space Force would begin with space elements that are now part of the Air Force and then build out by snaring space duties of the other service benches, according to the proposal.

“We will continue to be the best in the world at space and establishing a dedicated space force strengthens our ability to deter, compete and win in space,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Friday in a statement. Wilson had strongly opposed the creation of a new service branch for space, arguing it should remain part of the Air Force.

In addition to establishing a headquarters in 2020, the first-year plans also show an undersecretary of the Air Force for space would be nominated and subject to Senate confirmation and a chief of staff — a four-star position — would be named to head the force. That chief of staff will be on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, similar to the role of commandant of the Marine Corps.

More functions will be transferred to the Space Force in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, the proposal outlined. “This will include relevant space operational elements, acquisition elements, training and education elements, and other identified space-specific entities,” the proposal said.

In the following two years, new units and duties will come to the force, the proposal said, in response to “new mission demands and to establish organic space-specific capacity for doctrine development, intelligence analysis, education, etc.”

Left undetermined are what type of reserve or guard components will be part of the force and what to do with personnel who are opposed to being transferred to a new service entity from their current service branch.

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