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posted on 19 May 2019

Costs Of New Military Space Organizations

from the Congressional Budget Office

The U.S. military conducts many operations that involve space. Such operations consist mostly of launching, operating, and maintaining satellites that are used for various purposes, such as communicating, observing the weather, and monitoring other countries’ missile launches. CBO estimates that about 23,000 full-time positions within the Department of Defense (DoD) are dedicated to performing space activities or to supporting those who do - excluding space activities in the intelligence agencies. At the moment, 93 percent of those positions are in the Department of the Air Force.

The Administration has proposed changing that arrangement by creating what it calls a space force - an independent military service within the Department of the Air Force. The Administration has also proposed two more space organizations in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2020: a new combatant command and a new agency that would be responsible for the development and acquisition of space systems. Furthermore, the Administration has proposed creating a civilian Under Secretary for Space who would supervise the space service, report to the Secretary of the Air Force, and perhaps make policy about space.

What Has CBO Analyzed?

In this report, CBO examines five types of space organizations that DoD could create, including the three that the Administration has proposed:

  • A new military service within a new military department that would be analogous to the Department of the Army and that would organize, train, and equip space forces;
  • A new military service that would exist within the Department of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps exists within the Department of the Navy, and that would likewise organize, train, and equip space forces;
  • A new combatant command that would be structured like the military’s Cyber Command and that would employ space capabilities in peacetime and during conflicts;
  • A new agency that would be focused on developing and acquiring space systems and that would be analogous to the Missile Defense Agency; and
  • A new directorate that would make policy about space and that would be analogous to the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

CBO estimated the number of new personnel that each of those five organizational options would require for overhead and management, the annual costs that those new personnel would entail, and the onetime startup and transition costs of each option. The estimates in this report are for illustrative policy options; they do not represent cost estimates for any particular piece of legislation.

CBO focused on how much the options would increase costs, not how much each option would cost in total. Some current positions in DoD would simply be transferred to a new space organization and thus would not increase DoD’s total costs. Also, because it is unclear how much new capability DoD or the Congress might decide to add to a new organization, CBO’s analysis does not account for any new capabilities; it includes only the cost of new administrative structures. In addition, the analysis incorporates the assumption that intelligence agencies’ space capabilities, which are substantial, would not be transferred to a new space organization. And it incorporates the assumption that positions transferred from existing services to a new organization would not be filled again by the existing services; if they were, costs would increase.

How Much Would New Space Organizations Increase Costs?

Annual costs for new personnel would be much larger for some of the options than for others (see table below). For example, CBO estimates that a new military department would require 5,400 to 7,800 new personnel for overhead and management and increase DoD’s annual costs by $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion. A new service within the Department of the Air Force would be slightly smaller, requiring 4,100 to 6,800 such personnel and increasing annual costs by $820 million to $1.3 billion. A new policy directorate, by contrast, would require just 40 to 300 new personnel and increase DoD’s annual costs by $10 million to $60 million. The options would also incur one-time startup and transition costs, mostly for building new facilities to house the new organizations. CBO estimates that those costs would amount to between $1 billion and $3 billion for a new department or service.

Additional Overhead and Management Personnel and Costs for New Space Organizations
New DepartmentNew ServiceNew Combatant CommandNew Development and Acquisition AgencyNew Policy Directorate
Number of Additional Personnel (Full-time-equivalent positions)5,400 to 7,8004,100 to 6,800400 to 6001,200 to 2,30040 to 300
Additional Costs (Millions of 2020 dollars)
Annual1,080 to 1,540820 to 1,34080 to 120240 to 46010 to 60
Onetime1,400 to 3,2401,100 to 3,040520 to 1,060220 to 560Less than 10

How Much Might the Administration’s Proposal Increase Costs?

The Administration has provided few details about what the three organizations that it has proposed would look like or how large they would be. For 2020, the initial year of creating those organizations, it has requested $306 million and 827 positions, and it has also stated that it plans to have the new organizations fully running within five years. If the organizations were the same size as the ones that CBO examines in this report, the Administration’s proposal would, when fully implemented, require 5,700 to 9,700 new positions for overhead and management, increase DoD’s annual costs by $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion, and incur one-time costs of $1.8 billion to $4.7 billion, CBO estimates (see the second, third, and fourth columns in the table above). Adding any new capabilities would increase those costs.


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