President Donald Trump's dream of creating a space force as the sixth branch of the military may struggle to become reality amid opposition from congressional Republicans and criticism that the setup costs required are unjustifiable.
The Pentagon has yet to release a cost estimate for Trump's proposed Space Force.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters that the preliminary analysis drew partly from classified intelligence about possible threats in the 2025 to 2030 time frame, showing that the service, at its current size, would be unable to preserve America's edge.
The Air Force provided this graphic with a summary of the proposed plan. There is already a Space Command within the Air Force. "The first question was: 'What problem are we trying to solve?' It's that adversaries are developing capabilities to deny us the use of space".
Wilson says as the Air Force grows, they will continue to work to make the Air Force we have now more ready and more lethal. But rather than establishing a sixth military branch devoted to space defense, AFA instead supports the creation of a U.S. Aerospace Force that would combine the Air Force and the proposed Space Force.
Wilson also briefed on the importance of the mission in space, including a recent proposal to the Defense Department regarding the structure and responsibilities of a new branch of the Armed Services.
Wilson would strongly oppose that because she believes space acquisitions should be owned by a military service.
"We have the Air Force, we'll have the Space Force", Trump told an audience of service members at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Wilson's proposal is insistent the NRO and a new Space Development Agency should be in the Space Force to ensure acquisition is closely connected to space operators.
Shanahan said there was no road map to creating a new service branch since that last time it occurred was with the Air Force in 1947.
Brig. Gen. David Gaedecke, the director for the Air Force's Cyberspace Operations and Warfighting Integration and CIO for the Information Dominance office, pointed to the development of the Aeronet as an example of quickly fielding new capabilities.
But opponents will probably seize on the Air Force estimate that building the space force will cost $3.3 billion in the first year and $12.9 billion over five years as evidence that it would be too costly for a defense budget likely to be severely stretched in coming years. The NRO is believed to have the largest budget of the 17 USA intelligence agencies.
AFA said it welcomes some aspects of the administration's proposal, such as re-establishing the U.S. Space Command. Gen. Billy Mitchell (widely regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force) in 1925 after he vehemently accused the Army and Navy leadership of failing to prioritize air power.
Driven by these trends, the US military has focused on improving its defenses in space so it can better defend against and counter an attack on its space assets.
Wilson suggested her proposal is only the opening salvo.