House Appropriators Give Lukewarm Support for Space Force, SDA

House Appropriators Give Lukewarm Support for Space Force, SDA

The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will mark up its FY2020 defense appropriations bill today in closed session.  A draft of the bill shows some support for the Space Force and the Space Development Agency (SDA), but much less than a wholehearted endorsement.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees must decide whether or not to authorize creation of the Space Force and those decisions have not been made yet.  If it is created, it will need money. That is where the appropriations committees come in.

The draft appropriations bill provides just $15 million for the Space Force compared to the $72.4 million requested and the funds are to “study and refine plans for the potential establishment” of the new military service.

None of the funds may be used to transfer anything from the Intelligence Community (IC) to the Space Force.  DOD did not propose incorporating the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) or any other part of the IC into the Space Force now, but Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee that was being considered for the future.

The bill does not indicate how much the subcommittee allocated for the SDA ($149.8 million was requested), but whatever the number is, none may be expended until 90 days after the Secretary of Defense submits a report to Congress with details about:

  • exactly what SDA will do for the next 3 years and how much it will cost;
  • how SDA will coordinate and cooperate with the Air Force to develop an integrated space architecture to guide SDA and Air Force investments;
  • the process by which the SDA and the Air Force will cooperate in demonstrating and prototyping new capabilities and transition to programs of record;
  • the proposed physical location of SDA and how many personnel are needed in the first 3 years (government and contractors); and
  • a plan to transition the SDA into the Air Force no later than FY2022 or into the Space Force.

Those restrictions also apply to 50 percent of the funding for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Program.

Further details of space funding are not in the bill.  They usually are included in an accompanying report that is released after markup.

This is just the first step in a lengthy process for the FY2020 defense appropriations bill, which allocates a total of $690.2 billion for defense, an increase of $15.8 billion above FY2019 and $8 billion less than the President’s request.  The $690.2 billion includes $68.1 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), which is $165 million more than FY2019, but $96.2 billion below the President’s request.

The OCO account is intended to be used only for funds to fight wars overseas and that funding is not counted against budget caps.  For FY2020, the Trump Administration is proposing $66 billion for those purposes, but also $98 billion for routine defense activities in order to avoid the budget caps.  The idea is highly controversial.  House Appropriations Committee chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-New York) said the draft bill “rejects the Trump Administration’s budgetary gimmicks and sleights of hand” and provides “appropriate resources.”


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