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First estimates for Space Force put cost at $13 billion over five years

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announces the Trump administration's plan to create the U.S. Space Force by 2020 during a speech Aug. 9 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A memo obtained from the Air Force by The Associated Press puts the cost estimate for the Space Force at $13 billion over five years. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The first estimates from the Air Force on the proposed new Space Force branch of the military put the cost at around $13 billion over 5 years.

What are the details?

On Monday, The Associated Press obtained a memo dated Sept. 14 from Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, which called for “a lethality focused organization that will field space superiority capabilities.”

“The President has clearly communicated his desire for a military department for space,” Wilson wrote. “Strategic competition with Russia and China is the focus of our approach.”

The memo states that in its first year the Space Force would cost $3.3 billion. The total cost over five years would be $12.9 billion. The new branch would employ an estimated 13,000 people. It would be a separate department overseen by a president-appointed civilian secretary. The department would be “responsible for the preparation of forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war” and would deal with missile defense.

Trump has said that he wants the Space Force to be a branch of the military “separate but equal" to the existing branches. In June, the U.S. Senate approved a $716 billion budget for the rest of the military for 2019.

On June 18, Trump signed an executive order authorizing the creation of a Space Force.

“When it comes to defending America,” Trump told the National Space Council when he signed the order, “it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

He added, “my administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest spacefaring nation.”

The Space Force would be the first branch of the military to be created since the Air Force in 1947.

What else?

If this estimate is correct, it would put the cost for the Space Force far below not just the rest of the military, but also NASA. NASA's space shuttle program through the end of 2010 totalled $209 billion (adjusted for inflation to the 2010 value of the dollar), with an average cost of around $1.6 billion per flight.

The shuttle program officially ended on July 21, 2011. Even without the shuttle program, NASA estimated that its total budget for 2018 alone would be more than $19 billion.

One last thing…
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