The Space Force wants to grow the number of Guardians in service by nearly 10% and hopes to offer almost $5 million in new bonuses to recruit and keep them in the ranks under its 2024 budget request.
The Department of the Air Force's wish list details hopes to grow the Space Force to 9,400 Guardians, which would add 800 personnel to its active-duty number of 8,600 under the 2023 budget, according to details released Monday.
A total of $4.7 million is being sought for new selective retention bonuses and assignment incentive pay in the Space Force's budget request, marking some of the largest efforts in the service's short history to retain highly skilled Guardians and recruit new ones, according to budget officials.
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"This is about a 125% increase for the Space Force for bonuses," Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget Maj. Gen. Mike Greiner told reporters in a briefing ahead of the budget release. "With a smaller number [of service members], recruiting and retention are critical because small numbers change your ability to retain or your ability to recruit and really have a significant impact on those numbers."
The Space Force has unveiled a variety of bonuses in the past to try and recruit highly qualified candidates with science and technology backgrounds from the private sector.
Greiner also told reporters the vast majority -- about 700 -- of those 800 jobs are positions that would be moved from the Air Force to the Space Force. Even with that increase, the Space Force would still remain the smallest of all the military service branches with a total of about 14,300 positions, including civilian jobs.
The Department of the Air Force has also requested a 5.2% increase in pay for Guardians, a 4.2% raise in the Basic Allowance for Housing, and a 3.4% bump in the Basic Allowance for Subsistence.
As part of the service's request, there is a $330 million ask for improvements and capabilities at the Space Force's bases, with a focus on improving buildings, roads, utilities and infrastructure at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's launch facilities in Florida and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Around $30 million is being requested to develop a variety of training initiatives, including the Space Force's graduate school program at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., as well as boosting the Space Force's own basic military training, known as BMT, currently hosted at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
"They're laying in the program at Johns Hopkins for their intermediate leader education and their senior leader education," Greiner said. "So, this continues to fund their university partner program, BMT, those types of efforts."
Overall, the Space Force is asking Congress for $30 billion in fiscal 2024 -- a more than $5 billion increase from last year's request -- which, if approved, would be the largest in the service's history.
That increase is mostly directed at research and development efforts focused on missile warning and tracking, a similar theme from the year prior as tensions continue to grow in the Pacific and the Department of the Air Force continues to compete with China in outer space.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told reporters March 10 that the Department of the Air Force's budget reflects the Air Force and Space Force's priorities regarding those looming threats from China, but Congress' delays in getting the services' objectives funded is always a worry.
"The threat we're most concerned about is the pacing challenge, China and their military modernization program," Kendall said. "We move at the pace of money and engineering, and you don't start until you get the money."
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
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