The military’s new Space Force, if approved by Congress, will initially consist of 13,000 personnel and cost nearly $13 billion over five years, according to a U.S. Air Force memo obtained on Monday by VOA.
The Air Force, which currently oversees the bulk of military space assets, estimated in the memo that Space Force’s creation will cost more than $3 billion in its first year and an additional $10 billion over the four following years.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson wrote in the memo, dated Sept. 14, that strategic competition with Russian and China is the military’s “top priority, [and] nowhere is this more evident than in space.”
Her plan, she added, acts quickly to counter competitors’ attempts to “erode” U.S. military advantages in space by establishing a Space Force Headquarters in 2020 and transitioning all programs to the new department through proposed Congressional legislation and funding in 2021.
The Air Force Secretary pushed back on some of the initial Space Force proposals by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, such as the need to create a Space Development Agency to oversee satellite acquisition and the creation of a new top-level position in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
“Establishing an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space or new defense bureaucracy, or moving programs to a temporary holding organization, is not in line with the President’s intent,” she said.
She instead planned to use an already-established asset, the Air Force Space Rapid Capabilities Office, to oversee satellite purchases.
The Pentagon will include legislation to create the president’s desired Space Force in the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, which is expected to be sent to Congress in early 2019.
President Donald Trump repeatedly has called for the creation of a space force as a new military branch that he says is needed to ensure U.S. dominance in space.
Vice President Mike Pence formally announced some of the steps underway to create the new force last month after the Pentagon submitted a report to Congress detailing its space management changes.
About 18,000 people across the Department of Defense work in the field of space, with tasks that include protecting about 140 military satellites that generate trillions of dollars of economic output, according to senior military officials.