Costs of Creating a Space National Guard
CBO examines two options for establishing a Space National Guard to support active component Space Force personnel, estimating the additional costs beyond those incurred for existing Air and Army National Guard units that have space-related missions.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 established the Space Force as a new, independent military service within the Department of the Air Force. Intended to conduct operations that involve space—such as maintaining satellites that are used for communications, observing the weather, and monitoring other countries’ missile launches—the Space Force is currently authorized to operate only with regular (active component) personnel.
The creation of this new service has led to various proposals to establish a Space National Guard, which would supplement the Space Force’s active component forces as required. Such proposals have typically focused on existing units within the Air National Guard and Army National Guard that have space-related missions, including national space functions (such as missile warning and missile defense or space tracking) and deployable missions (primarily involving satellite communications). The Department of Defense (DoD) is studying the issue of whether to create a reserve component for the Space Force, either a Space National Guard or a Space Force Reserve, that would be similar to those of the other services.
In this report, CBO examines two options for establishing a Space National Guard that would support the Space Force. In its analysis, CBO focused on a smaller version of a prospective Space National Guard and a larger version, and estimated the additional costs beyond those incurred for existing units in the Air National Guard and Army National Guard that have space-related missions. Specifically:
- CBO considered a smaller version of a Space National Guard that is based on a February 2020 proposal by senior National Guard personnel. Under that proposal, 1,500 personnel in existing Air National Guard and Army National Guard units would be transferred to the new Space National Guard. CBO estimates that DoD would incur about $100 million in additional costs annually to operate and support this smaller Space National Guard. Creation of such a force also would probably result in onetime costs of about $20 million for the construction of additional facilities.
- CBO also considered a larger version of a Space National Guard that would be about one-third the size of the Space Force, the same size that the Air National Guard currently is in relation to the Air Force. (Unlike the first option, this one is not based on a specific public proposal.) Under that approach, the Space National Guard would consist of 4,900 to 5,800 personnel. CBO estimates that DoD would incur $385 million to $490 million in additional costs annually to operate and support this larger Space National Guard. Creation of this larger force also would probably result in onetime costs of $400 million to $900 million for constructing additional facilities and equipping the new units.
A reserve component to support the Space Force could be structured in other ways—including a Space Force Reserve that would operate exclusively at the federal level, rather than a National Guard that would allow for shared control between the federal government and states and territories. However, the costs of National Guard or reserve units would not differ significantly. The size of the reserve component would be the primary factor affecting costs.