Initial Space Force Estimates for FY ’20 Budget Imminent

The Defense Department plans to have an initial cost estimate for Space Force efforts within the fiscal year 2020 budget request by next week, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Oct. 26.

Speaking at the annual Military Reporters and Editors conference in Arlington, Va., Shanahan told reporters to put the previously reported estimate of $13 billion total “aside” as the department completes its full funding request.

Falcon Heavy lifts off from Florida during its first flight Feb. 6, 2018. (Photo: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy lifts off from Florida during its first flight Feb. 6, 2018. (Photo: SpaceX)

“There was an estimate of about $13 billion – where does that fit within the budget exercise that we’re doing? Next week, we’re going to start seeing those initial numbers, so I would put that number aside,” he said.

“The way I think about it is, how fast do we want to go, [and] how many pieces of the organization do we want to move simultaneously,” Shanahan added. Standing up the U.S. Space Command and fielding new space-related capabilities will make up the major “thrust” of the Space Force part of next year’s budget, he noted. The Department of Defense is working to build two budgets currently: One that includes a topline of $733 billion for national security spending, and one at $700 billion that lines up with President Trump’s stated desire to cut cabinet budgets by 5 percent next fiscal year (Defense Daily, Oct. 26).

Shanahan pushed back on assertions that the cost to stand up a Space Force will come at the expense of funding dollars in the other services, such as the Air Force or the Army.

He noted that there will not be “any hit” inside of what is currently Air Force Space Command. The main change there is that Commander Gen. John Raymond will begin to attend staff meetings with all of the other combatant commanders and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, rather than with U.S. Strategic Command Commander Air Force Gen. John Hyten, he said.

On the acquisition side, service commands will likely still handle contracting for any specific space-related capabilities they require, but the systems engineering will all be conducted through the Space Development Agency, Shanahan said.

“The paradigm shift we have to drive to in the department is that everyone can’t do it their own way,” he said.

At the National Space Council meeting on Tuesday, Shanahan said standing up the new Space Development Agency will be the initial top priority (Defense Daily, Oct. 23). On Friday, he elaborated on that point, saying that out of the three broad categories needed to set up a Space Force – the space operations piece out of a new U.S. Space Command, the Space Development Agency to field new capabilities and technologies, and a new headquarters and overhead functions – the capability fielding is most immediately needed to deliver effects.

“It’s easier to stand up training and an office than it is to field technologies into space,” he added.

As space has become a contested environment, the Pentagon needs to think more about developing survivable and dominating technologies for the warfighting domain, Shanahan said.  

“How quickly do we get equipment and capability that is very survivable, resilient and dominant in that contest environment? … That’s where I’ve been spending my time,” he said.  Aligning the department to ensure capabilities are being developed in one agency, rather than multiple times across the service, is also a priority, he noted.

“Think of the Space Development Agency as the forcing function so that we build out this new resilient, survivable, more evolutionary capability as a standard for the department and outside of the department,” he said.

The current plan does not include folding intelligence agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office into the Space Force, Shanahan said, noting, “There is no land grab with the intelligence organizations.”

That being said, “Over time … what makes sense to combine or merge mission areas – I can’t tell you what that looks like,” he added. Congress and other oversight committees will also get a say in how the new Space Force should be organized and which agencies are ultimately included, he added.

“Right now, when we’re spending real hard dollars on capabilities, we are 100 percent aligned [with the intelligence community] on how to get there so we can get the most out of those dollars,” Shanahan said.

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