Independent Estimate Puts Space Force Tab at Up to $21.5 Billion

An Atlas V rocket carrying USAF's AFSPC-11 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at on April 14. The biggest difference between the service's Space Force cost estimate and options put forth in a new CSIS report may be in headquarters costs. United Launch Alliance courtesy photo via USAF.

The total annual budget of a new Space Force could cost up to $21.5 billion—or as little as $11.5 billion, with almost all of the cost coming from existing spending, according to a new report by Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report released Monday outlines three options:

  • A limited “Space Corps” comprised of with a staff of 27,300 drawn from components of the 14th Air Force, would cost $11.5 billion.
  • A larger force adding the Army’s 1st Space Brigade, the Navy Program Executive Office Space Systems, and the Navy Satellite Operations Center would have 35,800 personnel and a budget of $13.4 billion.
  • An expanded version would add the Army’s 100th Missile Defense Brigade and personnel from the Defense Information Systems Agency for a total of 48,500 personnel and a budget of $21.5 billion.

Harrison’s estimate does not include space capabilities in intelligence agencies.

A major difference between the Air Force estimate and Harrison’s three options may be in headquarters costs.

The Air Force estimate of $12.92 billion of new spending included $2.2 billion for headquarters elements (along with $7.25 billion for the space force element, $1.8 billion for direct reporting and forward operating elements, $1 billion for military construction, and $595 million for combatant command personnel).

By contrast, Harrison’s largest estimate called for about $500 million in headquarters costs per year.

He said 96 percent of the budgets he outlined simply moved existing spending and only 4 percent represents new investment — $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion over five years compared to the Air Force’s almost $13 billion.

This shift in spending would represent a loss of about $11 billion for the Air Force, Harrison wrote.

The Pentagon expects to release its plan for the creation of the Space Force in the Fiscal 2020 budget request in February.