Imagine us last March at TCS, sitting around a table, staring into a Magic 8 ball. It was President’s Budget Request time last year, and we were looking into the future, asking for answers on what the new military service would cost.
“Space Force,” we questioned the ball, “how much will it cost?” Disappointingly, the answer was “reply hazy, try again” followed by “cannot predict now” so we were stuck with the cost estimate that then-Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan had promised. That was a laughably low $5 billion. As we wrote at the time, the FY20 request was an extremely modest $306 million. And we pointed out the comparatively high cost of Air Force military construction, as opposed to the other military services when we predicted the cost would soon launch itself into the, well, “Wild Blue Yonder”!
We’re feeling vindicated, but not happy, by the first budget request since the Space Force was set up as a part of the Department of the Air Force. The Trump Administration is asking for $15.3 billion for just this first fiscal year, although that doesn’t account for an additional $800.3 million for personnel that are being funded through the U.S. Air Force for now. So, that total should really be $16.1 billion. That’s a pretty far cry from Secretary Shanahan’s $5 billion. Can’t say we didn’t warn you.
Of that, the substantial Space Force Research & Development costs of $10.3 billion appear to be an almost dollar for dollar reduction from USAF R&D. Operations and Maintenance is pegged at $2.5 billion. Procurement is $2.4 billion. In FY21 there is no Military Construction request for U.S. Space Force. We’ll see what the future holds on MILCON.
As we said, $5 billion was always a made up, totally indefensible, number. Quoting from the official Air Force Song, we’re confidently predicting that next year’s budget request will be, “Climbing high, into the sun!”