The battle to create a separate Space Force will be on full display Wednesday when the Senate Armed Services takes up the topic.
A key witness for the panel will be Gen. Jay Raymond, who runs Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base. The stated topic for the gathering is an examination of the state of American efforts in light of increasing tensions in orbit with America’s rivals.
The Senate has shown reluctance to embrace the Space Force, an initiative that has been embraced by President Donald Trump to the point of becoming a chant at his rallies. The House Republicans first floated the topic in 2017, and it has gained momentum with Trump executive orders that lay the groundwork for the new force.
The argument for creation of the Space Force is that the Air Force has paid too little attention to its satellite arm, allowing the Chinese and Russians to catch up in military space prowess. Leaders have said the new threats in space have recently become apparent, but leaders of Space Command have talked about wartime concerns in orbit since at least the mid-2000s.
The big worry is an enemy could take out American satellites, hamstringing the work of our planes and grounding troops that rely heavily on signals from orbit for navigation, communications and intelligence.
But without full congressional approval, the Space Force could die on the vine. Congress needs to give the new service money along with policy changes that would allow its existence.
Speaking of money, Bloomberg military reporter Travis Tritten last week caught Tennessee Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper describing the $2 billion startup costs of a Space Force as “chicken feed.”
Projected cost numbers for Space Force are all over the map. Cooper’s $2 billion is on the low side of the numbers. Still, his comparison to chicken feed intrigued me.
That drove me to do some math.
At current market prices, that’s 6.6 billion pounds of chicken feed. That weighs as much as 1,020 massive Saturn V rockets that launched man to the moon.
To haul that chicken feed around the country, it would require a train nearly 200 miles long.
Based on average consumption of 3 ounces of feed per day per bird, that’s enough chicken feed to satisfy 98 million chickens for a year.
With the average hen producing 300 eggs per year, the $2 billion in chicken feed would result in 29.2 billion eggs. That would meet the annual egg consumption of 117 million Americans.
So, yes, the initial startup costs may seem like chicken feed in terms of the $750 billion Pentagon budget proposed for 2020. But if one thinks in terms of the rest of us: That, congressman, is a lot of chicken feed.Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx