A key legal change the White House is seeking would establish the administration’s proposed Space Force as a separate military branch, but it could cost billions more than the Senate’s fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has included, Defense News reported Thursday.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is leaning toward the change after the vice president personally lobbied him to include the new branch in the official United States code that organizes the military, according to the report.
However, Inhofe expressed concerns for potential massive added defense costs and how they would be absorbed by the FY 2020 NDAA because of how the costs are scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the report said.
The CBO has estimated the Space Force proposal would add $800 million to $1.3 billion in annual costs, and between $1.1 billion and $3 billion in one-time costs.
However, the CBO’s analysis concludes the Senate NDAA bill doesn’t reflect those program costs because it omits declaring formation of the new branch, according to the report. Instead, the Senate established conditions and a one-year timeline for DOD to start the Space Force, all aimed at cost reduction and requiring the Pentagon prove it has a vision for the new branch, the report said.
The Senate’s FY 2020 NDAA would restructure certain Air Force organizations and personnel into the Space Force and would not authorize new military billets or civilian hires, which the House bill does not include, according to the report.
The Space Force, if approved by Congress, would be the first new military branch since the Air Force was created in 1947. It would be the smallest service by far, with between 15,000 and 20,000 members, according to the report.
Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Satran