The White House wants $72.4 million to fund the establishment of Space Force headquarters, according to a statement released by the Department of Defense today.
That’s far less than previous estimates for standing up the Space Force. Last September, a leaked memo signed by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson estimated that standing up the Space Force would cost $3.3 billion for fiscal year 2020, and nearly $13 billion over the next five years.
The idea behind the Space Force is to gather everyone in the military who works on space-related issues (satellite launches, etc) into one organization. The reorganization is part of a broader effort to consolidate and update military space initiatives that involves even more bureaucratic shuffling. In December, President Donald Trump asked the Department of Defense to create a separate entity, the Space Command, to oversee warfighting in space.
Some of the difference between previous estimates and the new budget request likely has to do with the fact that the Space Force has changed a lot since Trump first brought up the idea last March. Initially, the president wanted the Space Force to be a completely separate branch of the military. But by this February, when Trump signed his fourth space policy directive, the idea of a completely separate branch had gone by the wayside, leaving the envisioned Space Force nestled inside the Air Force. The latest structure is remarkably similar to previous Congressional proposals for a Space Corps, which both the Air Force and White House objected to when it was first proposed in 2017.
Details on how the $72.4 million budget might be spent are still up in the air, and the actual funding of the Space Force is likely to cost much more. But the number lines up with a proposal the Department of Defense submitted to Congress on March 1 asking for the creation of the US Space Force. In a FAQ released by the DoD, the department estimated that the Space Force will include about 15,000 people and that it will cost $72 million to establish “an initial Space Force headquarters.” It also said that once it was established “the Space Force would require approximately $500 million more per year than what is currently spent on space.”
For now, this is just a proposed budget. Congress will make the final call of how much money the Space Force will actually get, and we won’t have those numbers (or a Space Force) for a while yet.