Todd Harrison says $13 billion is a high-ball figure meant to shift the debate.
The U.S. Air Force says it will cost $13 billion over five years to create a Space Force. A noted budget estimate disagrees.
“This is the highest estimate I think you could possibly come up with,” said Todd Harrison, director of Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.
Specifically, Harrison questioned figures presented in a Sept. 14 memo sent from Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. In that memo, Wilson wrote that an additional 13,000 people would be needed for a Space Force, a sixth branch of the military ordered by President Trump. That memo said it would cost $13 billion over five years to fund all of those new Space Force employees.
“The methodology here is not very sophisticated and they’re giving no indication of where they got the number of people here and this all hinges on the numbers of people that we’re talking about,” Harrison said. “I don’t give a lot of credibility to this.”
Moreover, Harrison called Wilson’s memo “an example of malicious compliance.”
Air Force officials have long opposed the creation of a Space Force, although, sources say their views have shifted in recent months. Wilson, in her memo, called for pulling the National Reconnaissance Office and space activities in other organizations — like the Missile Defense Agency — into the Space Force.
“This is the broadest possible definition of how you could scope a Space Force that anyone could possibly conceive,” Harrison said.
The estimate also presumes the construction of a $1 billion building for U.S. Space Command.
“We already have buildings where these people … [are] housed,” Harrison said. “I don’t know why we need a $1 billion new building.”
So why come up with this estimate?
“This cost estimate, it just really looks like they’re trying to come out with a high-ball estimate to shift the debate into how expensive this is going to be,” he said.