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While space capabilities were a cornerstone of the January 2012 Defense Department strategic guidance, top-line funding for major military space acquisitions in the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget request were largely flat or reduced. To some extent, budget pressures are not a surprise. DOD is currently operating under the bipartisan budget debt ceiling agreement reached last year that calls for the defense budget to drop to 2008 levels - a reduction of nearly $500 billion in defense spending over 10 years.
This budgetary pressure is evident in the fiscal year 2013 budget request for military space. The president’s budget request for unclassified major military space program acquisitions stood at $8 billion; a 22 percent decrease from last year’s request. Since 2009, the top-line for major military space acquisitions has decreased by nearly 30 percent. This decrease is largely due to a reduction in satellite procurement as well as the end of major new system development programs including the Transformational Satellite Communications System and the proposed termination of the Defense Weather Satellite System. Top-line aside, funding in the fiscal year 2013 budget request was largely stable for protected satellite communications, launch, global positioning and missile warning.
Other fiscal year 2012 decreases were reported in a February 17 Wall Street Journal article that identified proposed cuts to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Enhanced View account. While NGA’s budget is classified, the article cited an agency spokeswoman confirming “significant reductions” impacting U.S.-based satellite imagery providers and their suppliers.
On a positive note, the president’s military space request included the Efficient Space Procurement (ESP) initiative – formerly the Evolutionary Acquisition for Space Efficiency approach. The ESP initiative seeks to increase stability and savings in the space sector by applying a block-buy approach to “production ready” satellites, including those in protected communications, missile warning and global positioning. AIA’s National Security Space Committee supports this initiative and steps to achieve efficiencies while increasing stability and predictability for critical capabilities within the space industrial base. The committee’s annual top-line national security space white paper commends the ESP effort and encourages Congress to take steps to properly implement the approach.
One area of significant concern to AIA members in the president’s budget request for military space was the terminations and reductions for space research and development. While DARPA’s space technology account saw an increase to $160 million, military space R&D is threatened by proposed reductions at the Naval Research Laboratory and the outright termination of both the Air Force’s Space Test Program and Operationally Responsive Space initiative. These proposals could eliminate more than forty years of innovative Air Force investment in small military R&D satellites.
The Space Test Program, headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, began in 1965 as the primary provider of design and acquisition for innovative DOD space experiments. According to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet, “The technologies behind most military satellite programs flying today, such as the Global Positioning System, military communications satellites and space-based surveillance and weather systems, had their initial demonstrations as Space Test Program risk reduction experiments.” An effort that survived past defense budget downturns, the Space Test Program has flown more than 400 experiments on nearly 200 spaceflights. In 2007, forty years after the its first launch, the Space Test Program made history when it successfully launched six satellites on an Atlas V rocket. The satellites included experiments for the Air Force, Air Force Academy, Navy, DARPA and the Energy Department.
Another 2007 milestone was the establishment of the ORS initiative on May 21, just four months after the Chinese military successfully used a direct-ascent ASAT missile to obliterate a weather satellite. ORS is an Air Force-led, congressionally directed effort designed to utilize small, modular satellites to meet changing national security requirements and help satisfy urgent needs of Joint Force Commanders. ORS efforts have sought to develop the capability to more rapidly augment U.S. satellite power if U.S. space assets are threatened. The initiative was highlighted by President Obama in his 2008 campaign platform for space and remains listed on the White House website as an administration investment priority in order to “maintain our technological edge and protect assets” in the space domain. ORS pioneered such systems as the ORS-1 satellite, successfully launched in 2011 from Wallops Island, Va. This small satellite dedicated to the Medal of Honor recipients from the U.S. Central Command was built in 16 months and is helping to prove the technologies required for enhanced battlespace intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Elimination of military space R&D efforts like the Space Test Program and the ORS initiative would not only impact our nation’s ability to pioneer new space technologies important to national security and the warfighter, but could also have a troubling impact on American second- and third-tier space industrial base firms. AIA has already noticed strain within this sector as smaller firms find it difficult to compete internationally due to current export restrictions. A new AIA report on satellite export policy jointly spearheaded by the AIA Space Council and International Council, Competing for Space, found that at least 13 out of 20 Defense Production Act Title III projects are necessary for the U.S. space program. However, a recent study conducted for the Defense Department by the Tauri Group stated nine newly identified areas of the military space industrial base are at risk due to limited suppliers.
While major military space programs take years to design, build and upgrade, military space R&D efforts often allow continuous competitive opportunities for space businesses that are often not part of major acquisition projects. AIA is concerned that ending the Space Test Program and ORS efforts, without a clear path forward for military space R&D, could further exacerbate at risk suppliers with hundreds of jobs spread throughout Virginia, Florida, Colorado and New Mexico.
In a new series of national security space themed white papers, AIA is requesting that Congress and decision makers take the need for increased stability and predictability within the military space sector very seriously. In order to have a healthy military space industrial base, there must be stability across the board, from the acquisition of major satellite systems through approaches like ESP, to stable investments in military space R&D.
AIA strongly urges Congress to provide stable funding for major DOD space acquisitions, fully support the ESP initiative, and also help ensure appropriate levels of investment in future technologies.
For more information, new and updated AIA National Security Space white papers and reports can be found at:
• New AIA National Security Space Funding Paper
• New AIA Responsive Space Paper
• New AIA Small Launch Paper
• New AIA Hypersonics Paper
• AIA Competing for Space Report and Fact Sheets
Additional information on the FY2013 DOD space budget, the Space Test Program and Operationally Responsive Space Initiative:
• More on DOD’s FY 2013 Space Request and the Efficient Space Procurement Initiative
• Rep. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Doug Lamborn Letter to Secretary Panetta on STP and ORS Cuts
• Fact Sheet on Space Test Program
• Fact Sheet on ORS Initiative
AIA Source: mike.conschafter[at]aia-aerospace.org