Congress Moving Forward on FY2019 DOD Authorization, Appropriations Bills

Congress Moving Forward on FY2019 DOD Authorization, Appropriations Bills

The Senate plans to begin debate on its version of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) tomorrow.  Unlike the House-passed bill, the Senate version does not make any broad changes to how DOD is organized to manage its space programs.  The House Appropriations Committee released its FY2019 DOD appropriations bill today.  Subcommittee markup is tomorrow.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) completed markup of the NDAA before the Memorial Day recess, but has only just released the text of the bill.  The accompanying explanatory report still is not publicly available, so information is limited on what the committee has in mind.

The bill text includes the following space-related provisions (this is not a comprehensive list):

  • Makes changes to acquisition authority for the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and creates a Space Rapid Capabilities Board of Directors to provide coordination, oversight and approval of projects.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a Space Warfighting Policy by March 29, 2019. By the same date, he must complete a review of U.S. space capabilities.  The bill stipulates a lengthy list of topics that must be assessed such as the resiliency of the national security space enterprise with respect to a conflict, the ability to attribute an attack on a space system in a timely manner, the ability to resolve a conflict in space, and many more.
  • Requires a report within one year of enactment on what would be needed to incrementally improve the Global Positioning System’s current Operational Control Segment (OCS) to achieve capabilities that are supposed to be part of the new GPS Next Generation Operational Control Segment (OCX), which is experiencing delays.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to eliminate commercial launch licensing requirements that are duplicative of those required by the Department of Transportation.
  • Renames the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program the National Security Space Launch Program and directs the Secretary of Defense to pursue a strategy that includes fully or partially reusable space launch systems.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with NASA, to complete a review by May 1, 2019 of each DOD program, activity, and future technology research project being carried out on the International Space Station.
  • Temporarily gives the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD/R&E) authority to direct the Secretaries of the military departments and the heads of other DOD elements with respect to programs, projects and activities in connection with certain priority technology areas: directed energy, hypersonics, artificial intelligence, and future space satellite architectures.  The authority regarding future space satellite architectures does not include space launch vehicles and the Deputy Secretary of Defense has final decisional authority on these matters.  The authority given to the USD/R&E in this section expires one year after enactment.

The House and Senate clashed last year over divergent approaches to reorganizing DOD and the Air Force to manage space programs more effectively.  The compromise was to commission a study, which is underway.  An interim report is due in August; the final report in December.  The White House and others argue that it would be premature to require any organizational changes before the report is completed, but the House-passed NDAA includes a requirement to establish a U.S. Space Command as a sub-unit of U.S. Strategic Command.  The Senate bill has no comparable provision.

Authorization bills like the NDAA set policy and recommend funding levels, but only appropriations bills actually provide money.

The House Appropriations Committee is taking the first step on DOD’s FY2019 appropriations tomorrow with subcommittee markup of a bill that was released this afternoon.  The text of the bill is too general to discern how space program funding fared.  A committee summary mentions only that $1.7 billion is provided for five space launch and capability services, which appears to be the same as the request ($710 million for Evolved Expendable Launch Capability plus $995 million for EELV (Space)).

Subcommittee markup is at noon tomorrow, but is closed.  A date for full committee markup was not announced by the committee yet.

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