Appropriators Boost FY2023 Space Force Funding

Appropriators Boost FY2023 Space Force Funding

The final version of the FY2023 defense appropriations bill will boost funding for the U.S. Space Force not only above FY2022, but over President Biden’s request — a new total of $26.3 billion. The defense appropriations bill is incorporated in the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations bill introduced in the early hours this morning and currently being considered by the Senate. The funding is a little higher than what was recommended in the National Defense Authorization Act last week.

As introduced at about 2:00 am ET this morning, the bill (H.R. 2617) provides $26,289,948,000 for the Space Force, which is celebrating its third birthday today.

Gen. B. Chance Saltzman speaks at the transition ceremony for the Chief of Space Operations at Joint Base Andrews, MD., Nov. 2, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

The Space Force was created as the sixth military service on December 20, 2019 when the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law. It is part of the Department of the Air Force, just as the Marines are part of the Department of the Navy.  Gen. B. Chance Saltzman took over as Chief of Space Operations from Gen. Jay Raymond last month.

The bill provides the following sums for the Space Force as part of the overall $858 billion for defense:

  • Military Personnel: $1,109,400,000 ($1,117,361,000 was requested)
  • Operations & Maintenance: $4,086,883,000 ($4,034,658,000 was requested)
  • Procurement: $4,462,188,000 ($3,629,669,000 was requested)
  • Research, Development, Test & Evaluation: $16,631,377,000 ($15,819,372,000 was requested)

The amounts are roughly in line with what authorizers approved in the FY2023 NDAA. The approximately $1 billion for personnel wasn’t broken out in the NDAA, but the other three categories totaled $24.85 billion. For appropriations it’s $25.18 billion, slightly higher.

Authorization bills set policy and recommend funding, but only appropriations bills actually provide money.

The funding tables in the explanatory statement illlustrate some of the appropriations committees’ priorities. There are many reductions and increases, but among the more significant plus-ups in the RDT&E budget compared to the request are:

  • Space Technology: $361 million versus $244 million
  • Space Advanced Technology Development/Demonstration: $168 million versus $103 million
  • Space Technology Development and Prototyping: $1,038 million versus $987 million
  • National Security Space Launch Program Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD):$234 million versus $124 million
  • Space Test and Training Range Development: $107 million versus $21 million
  • Tactically Responsive Launch: $50 million (zero was requested)
  • Classified Programs: $5,438 million versus $4,973 million

Significant decreases include:

  • Protected Tactical Service: $252 million instead of $295 million because funding was unjustified or ahead of need
  • Evolved Strategic Satcom: $521 million instead of $566 million — excess to need
  • GPS III Follow-On: $294 million instead of $326 million — excess to need or unjustified
  • Narrowband Satellite Communications: $110 million instead of $166 million — service life extension delays

The conferees express concern that projections show a flat or declining budget over the next five years “even though the Space Force is proposing ambitious plans for new architectures, programs, and mission areas.” The Air Force is directed to brief the House and Senate Appropriations committees by February 1, 2023 on the “cost, affordability and executability” of the Space Force’s full portfolio of classified and unclassified programs.

They also want more information on the Resilient Missile Warning/Missile Tracking Initiative.

“While the agreement strongly supports the pivot to a more proliferated and diverse architecture of smaller satellites, the Space Force has not provided sufficient infonnation on the expected life-cycle cost of the new architecture; the cost to recapitalize a proliferated architecture every three to five years; potential risks and challenges in the supply chain; the ability of the Space Force to scale up capabilities to command and control a much larger number of satellites; and the applicability and ability to meet stringent requirements for missile warning certification, cybersecurity, and resilience against reversible and irreversible kinetic and non-kinetic attacks. Therefore, the agreement directs the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, to develop a life-cycle cost estimate for the proposed Resilient Missile Warning/Missile Tracking initiative and provide a report on the estimate to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act.

“In addition, the agreement directs the Secretary of the Air Force, in consultation with the Chief of Space Operations, to provide a report to the congressional defense committees, not later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act, that provides an assessment of each of the missile warning and missile tracking programs to include a comparison of the cost, schedule, capabilities, system life-span, and associated risk of each. The report shall include an integrated master schedule for all missile warning and missile tracking weapon systems currently in operation or development. This report shall be accompanied by a supplementary classified version that captures all relevant programs capable of providing missile warning across the Title 10 and Title 50 mission sets. Further, the agreement directs the Secretary of the Air Force to continue to provide quarterly briefings on the status of its missile warning-related program and expand the scope to include both the OPIR program and the Resilient Missile Warning-Missile Tracking program as an integrated set of programs.”

Regarding the $50 million they added for Tactically Responsive Launch, the conferees noted they provided $50 million in last year’s appropriations bill and directed the Secretary of the Air Force to provide an acquisition strategy for this capability, but the FY2023 budget request did not include any resources for it. The SecAF is again directed to provide “the resourcing profile across the future years defense program by program, project, and activity for tactically responsive space capabilities, to include launch.”

Another area of interest is cislunar space. Noting that they provided $61 million for a cislunar flight experiment and $70 million for nuclear propulsion technologies for cislunar flight last year, the conferees added $20 million this year. “Developing capabilities and operating within cislunar space is imperative for the Nation to obtain national security, science and technology, and economic advantages.”

Whether Congress will finish action on FY2023 appropriations before the 117th Congress ends on January 3, 2023 remains to be seen. Republicans are split on whether to delay the legislation until they take control of the House in the 118th Congress and have more influence on the outcome or finish it now so they can start with a clean slate. This afternoon, enough Republican Senators voted yes on a procedural motion to move forward with debate that getting it through the Senate, at least, seems more likely than not, but time will tell.

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