WASHINGTON (CN) — As details streamed in Friday about the proposal to launch a Space Force within the Department of Defense, the secretary of the agency applauded what he called “an historic moment for our nation.”
“The Department of Defense’s legislative proposal to establish the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces is a strategic step towards securing America’s vital national interests in space,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement this afternoon.
The Space Force, which the Pentagon first unveiled in a proposal to Congress on Wednesday, would be America’s first new military branch in more than 70 years.
New details on the proposal Friday envision a Space Force workforce of around 15,000, but just 200 to start in 2020, making it the smallest branch of the military.
By contrast the Coast Guard is currently the smallest branch of the armed forces with about 40,000 active-duty members in uniform. The Marine Corps ranks as second smallest with a force of 186,000, while the Army, with 487,500 active-duty members, is the largest.
The Pentagon has put the cost of creating the Space Force at an estimated $2 billion per year, not accounting for military-spending costs.
Though the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Reconnaissance Office all hold space-related interests, the Pentagon said none of these agencies would see their responsibilities delegated away to the Space Force.
The Space Force would operate under and report directly to the Air Force, but retain its own chief of staff. Still unclear Friday is whether the Space Force would operate its own recruitment boot camp or have its own uniform.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson backed the proposal as well in a statement Friday. “We will continue to be the best in the world at space and establishing a dedicated space force strengthens our ability to deter, compete and win in space,” she said.