Shanahan Talks Dollars, Fiscal Sense and Space

The U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Mission 13 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida, Dec. 15, 2017. It marked the wing’s 19th launch from the Eastern Range, the last launch scheduled for the year. Shortly after launch, the Falcon 9’s flight-proven first stage booster successfully landed at Landing Zone 1 at CCAFS. (DoD photo courtesy of SpaceX)
November 15, 2018

Space, known as the final frontier, is something the Defense Department would like to explore, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said.

And, Congress and the president’s administration want the DOD to accelerate its abilities to deliver capabilities in the space domain, Shanahan said today at a Pentagon briefing.

The topic is so important to national security, he said, that he meets twice a week with the Space Governance Committee, which he leads, to put together a proposal that can past the cost scrutiny of lawmakers.

Shanahan said he will produce a proposal that makes sense in terms of cost, mission and focus in the establishment of a space force.

By early next year, Shanahan said he hopes to nominate a suitable candidate to lead such a force.

Additional Priorities

Other DOD priorities, in addition to space, include cyber and hypersonics. These are “super priorities,” Shanahan said.

However, the administration asked that DOD’s budget be reduced 5 percent, he said. That would bring it down to about $700 billion from $733 billion.

So, there will have to be priority trade-offs, with some things being eliminated, others like certain procurements shrinking and adjustments to manpower levels, Shanahan said.

One area that could be targeted for budget cuts is the “fourth estate,” he added. The so-called fourth estate consists of certain DOD agencies not solely belonging to a particular service.

There will be a lot of high level discussions on this next week when the services bring their new decreased budget proposals back to DOD, he said.

After the defense secretary signs off on it, the president will have the final say on the budget proposal and it’s DOD’s job to make it clear to him what the trade-offs are and what they mean to national security, he said.

Audit Results

Shanahan also discussed the results of the first Defense Department-wide audit.

It was a big accomplishment to have the audit, as DOD is a $2.7-trillion organization, he said.

Did the department pass? No, by and large “we failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan said.

The thing to do now is to address the findings with corrective actions to get into compliance in time for next year’s audit, he said.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @VergunDoD)