News Briefs – September 19, 2018


Air Force: Space Force would cost $13 billion over 5 years

Creating a Space Force as a separate military service, as proposed by President Donald Trump, would cost an estimated $12.9 billion in its first five years, according to a detailed Air Force plan for how to go about it.
This is the first publicly available cost estimate. When the White House announced plans to establish a Space Force in August, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan declined to give a figure but said it would be in “the billions.”
The Air Force’s estimate is contained in a Sept. 14 memo from Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who proposed that the Pentagon ask Congress for the authority and money to establish a Space Force headquarters in 2020.
“The President has clearly communicated his desire for a military department for space,” she wrote. “Strategic competition with Russia and China is the focus of our approach.”
Creation of Space Force as a separate military service will require congressional action. The administration is expected to submit proposed legislation early next year authorizing the establishment of a Space Force.
A copy of the Air Force memo was obtained Sept. 17 by The Associated Press.
The memo says the first-year cost of a Space Force would be $3.3 billion, and the cost over five years would be an estimated $12.9 billion.
In an indication of the complexities of creating a new military service, the Air Force says the proposed U.S. Space Force would be a separate department organized under a civilian secretary appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, along with an undersecretary, four assistant secretaries, a chief lawyer, an inspector general and a legislative liaison. A four-star general would serve as chief of staff.
The proposal said the missions of Space Force would include missile defense. More broadly, it would be “responsible for the preparation of forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war.”
In June, Trump directed the Pentagon to create a “separate but equal” space force. In August, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the administration will work with Congress to come up with a workable approach. The last time the U.S. created a new military service was in 1947 when the Air Force was established as an independent service. AP

Russia says military aircraft lost over the Mediterranean

Russia’s military said Sept. 18 that one of its aircraft with 14 people on board has disappeared over Syria’s Mediterranean Sea coast.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft went off radar 35 kilometers (22 miles) off the coast late Monday as it was returning to the Russian base near the city of Latakia. The military said the plane disappeared as four Israeli fighter jets were attacking targets in the area.
The ministry also said that it detected missile launches from a French frigate nearby around that time.
Officials did not immediately say if the plane was shot down.
Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and it has two military bases in the country, including one close to the Mediterranean coast.
The Israeli military had no reaction, saying it does not comment on “foreign reports.”
But for several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness. AP

Trump ‘seriously’ considering boosting U.S. military in Poland

President Donald Trump said Sept. 18 he was “very seriously” considering a greater U.S. troop presence in Poland as he conferred with a top NATO partner at the White House.
Joined by Poland President Andrzej Duda, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that Poland was “willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland.” The U.S. president said it was “something we will discuss.”
Facing Russia’s increased military activity in the region, Poland has been pressing for the 3,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Poland on a rotating basis to be upgraded to a larger, permanent presence. A decision from the U.S. could come early next year.
Security, trade and energy topped the agenda as Trump welcomed Duda to the White House for the first time. Duda credited Trump for making Warsaw the first stop on the U.S. president’s inaugural European trip last year and said Trump’s speech was a “very important moment” for the relationship between the two countries.
Trump renewed his criticism of a planned new natural gas pipeline linking Germany with Russia. Trump says it’s “ridiculous” and bad for the German people.
Poland wants to increase the volume of liquefied gas contracts with the U.S. as a way to cut its dependence on gas imports from Russia. AP