CBO’s Cost Estimate for Space Force Much Higher than DOD’s

CBO’s Cost Estimate for Space Force Much Higher than DOD’s

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued its own estimates of the costs of the proposed Space Force and other new space organizations today.  They are much higher than DOD’s estimates, although it is not clear if they are based on the same assumptions.  In any case, CBO concludes that the United States Space Force (USSF) as a service within the Air Force would cost $820 million to $1.34 billion annually, plus a start-up cost of $1.1-$3.0 billion.  The Space Development Agency (SDA) and the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) are on top of that.

CBO analyzed the personnel requirements and costs of five new military organizations, three of which are being formally proposed by DOD: USSF, SDA, and USSPACECOM. The other two are the original proposal by President Trump to create a new department separate from the Air Force, and for a policy directorate.

Source: Congressional Budget Office. The Personnel Requirements and Costs of New Military Space Organizations. May 8, 2019.

CBO was looking at it from the personnel perspective, comparing the new organizations with existing ones since DOD did not provide details on “what the organizations would look like or how large they would be.”

For USSF, CBO estimates 4,100-6,800 new overhead and management positions will be needed in addition to 22,900 positions transferred from existing military services.  The new positions come with a one-time pricetag of $1.1 billion-$3.0 billion and annual costs of $820 million-$1.3 billion.

USSPACECOM would need 400-600 new personnel, with one-time start up and construction costs of $500 million-$1.1 billion and annual costs of $80-$120 million.

SDA would require 1,200-2,300 additional personnel, with one-time costs of $220-$560 million and annual costs of $240-$460 million.

By contrast, DOD’s FY2020 budget request for USSF is $72.4 million, plus $149.8 million for SDA and $83.8 million for USSPACECOM.  That’s a total of $306 million in FY2020.  CBO says the total personnel increase represented in those figures is 827 positions.

DOD has said the 5-year cost of USSF will be $2 billion, but did not provide comparable figures for SDA or USSPACECOM.

Congress continues to debate whether to create these organizations.  USSPACECOM does not appear very controversial other than where it will be located.  The Space Force proposal is controversial and its fate is far from clear.  Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has already created SDA.  That did not require congressional approval, but Congress will have to provide the funding.

Todd Harrison, Director of the Aerospace Security Project and Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has done his own analyses of these costs.  In a long series of tweets today, partially reproduced here, he cautioned that the CBO and other estimates are not “apples-to-apples” comparisons.

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