The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

A Space Force Will Only Lead to More Waste

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On June 18, 2018, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating a Space Force.  While the idea was praised by some members of Congress, detractors point to concerns about the increased bureaucracy and costs associated with a sixth military branch.

The President’s proposal follows Congress’ rejection of a similar plan included in the House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to form a space corps within the Air Force.  Instead, the final NDAA contained language directing the Air Force to develop a road map outlining the creation of a space-centered branch of the military.  

In the past, leading Department of Defense (DOD) officials have opposed the creation of a new military branch.  At the time of the original proposal, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein acknowledged that while there are improvements to be made to the military’s approach to space, a new branch would bloat bureaucracy and hinder a space corps’ ability to operate efficiently.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis also lobbied against a Space Force in July 2017, calling the formation of an additional branch “premature” as he sought to “reduce overhead” at DOD.  In a similar statement, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that a sixth branch would “make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money,” which she argues would better directed toward “lethality” rather than bureaucracy.

The proposal of a space force brings forth several questions regarding the structure and role of this new military branch.  Because it would be independent of the Air Force, a space force would require a new command structure and the addition of thousands of highly specialized employees.  Many of these positions would likely be filled by the Air Force Space Command, which only consists of 35,000 service members.  Due to the need for specific and highly-skilled individuals, a space force is anticipated to be the smallest branch of the military by a wide margin.  As a result, it makes more sense for these responsibilities to remain within the Air Force.

The creation of a space force would also bring about the need for the construction of a headquarters to operate and house service members.  Air Force Space Command is currently spread over 134 bases throughout the world.  The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps also have additional resources dedicated to space defense.  Both the President’s plan and the House proposal would require the DOD to consolidate many of these assets into a central location without defining a space force’s role beyond what the military already does.  This consolidation process would require drawn-out negotiations between branches to determine control of bases and each one’s specific responsibilities for space defense.  Even with these changes, there would likely still be a duplication of roles.

The rise of defense spending since the 9/11 attacks has already resulted in an exponential growth in bureaucracy in the Pentagon.  Over the past 17 years, the defense budget has doubled from $300 billion to $600 billion per year.  This surge in defense spending was accompanied by a rise in the number of civilians employed at DOD.  In 2000, 659,000 civilians were employed by the Pentagon.  By 2016, that number had climbed to 738,000, an 11 percent increase.  This growth in spending and bureaucracy has not necessarily increased the effectiveness of the U.S. military.  The addition of a new branch will serve only to add unnecessary costs that come with increased duplication and bureaucracy.  In the end, a Space Force is a bad investment for American taxpayers.

-- Ryan Lanier

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