WASHINGTON, D.C. — Creation of a Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military will be less about traditional military structure than about development and acquisition of weapons and other systems to address the now militarily contested arena of space, according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

"The Space Force has been about, 'How do we accelerate providing new space capabilities?" Shanahan said. "And so most of the conversation has been around, how do we change our development and acquisition process?"

Speaking with a small group of reporters from across the county by video conference late last week, Shanahan said the Space Force championed by President Donald Trump would be far smaller than other services. The combined military and civilian force would comprise about 20,000 people — approximately the size of Eglin Air Force Base, Shanahan noted.

Shanahan said the 20,000-person figure is based on the number of people across all of the military services now doing jobs that would be part of the Space Force mission.

"And you know, from where I sit, there's not a lot of extra money to go around," Shanahan said. "So we're not going to go big."

Another aspect of the Department of Defense's approach to space is something called the Space Development Agency, which will be designed to eliminate duplication of efforts among the different military services' pursuit of space defense technology, Shanahan explained.

"And why that, to me, is really great as a taxpayer is that we're going to solve the same problem maybe once, instead of four or five times," Shanahan said.

The agency also will work to take advantage of commercially developed space technology, Shanahan explained.

"If we think about how SpaceX has transformed getting to space, because it's now much lower cost, people can put more satellites into space so that whole economics are changing," Shanahan said.

"This is a reversal of, in the old days, (when) government would develop the technology and then commercial (enterprises) would adopt it," Shanahan said. (The commercial world) has developed the technology, now we'll tailor it to our military applications."