House Appropriators Move FY2013 Defense Appropriations Bill, Do Not Restore ORS or STP

House Appropriators Move FY2013 Defense Appropriations Bill, Do Not Restore ORS or STP

As the House of Representatives debated the FY2013 authorization bill for the Department of Defense (DOD) today, the House Appropriations Committee was marking up the companion appropriations measure.

Authorization bills set policy and recommend how much money should be spent on various programs, but only appropriations bills actually provide money.  The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) is the authorization committee for DOD in the House.  The House began debating HASC’s FY2013 authorization bill, H.R. 4210, yesterday and continued today.

The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2013 funding bill for DOD today.   In its report to accompany the bill, the appropriators increased funding for the Space Based InfaRed Satellite (SBIRS) system by $68 million above the President’s request of $517 million.  The committee also said it is supporting an incremental funding approach for SBIRS and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite program, but noted that the cost estimates for both appear to be “conservative” and asked for a report from DOD on the “should-cost” estimate for buying three instead of two satellites for each constellation.  “If the approved acquisition strategy does not support the most economical procurement of these vehicles,” the committee said, then DOD must submit a report explaining why.

Regarding space launch services, the committee praised the record of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs, a reference to the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets), but said the “costs for this program have been difficult to justify and have been a source of concern.”  The committee said that it was “eager” to see the results of a review of the EELV program as part of the Nunn-McCurdy recertification process.  The Nunn-McCurdy provision requires DOD to explain to Congress why programs cost more than expected if they exceed a certain cost escalation threshold and to certify that they are still important enough to warrant spending the additional funds.  The committee added that it supports DOD’s New Entrant Certification initiative for launch service providers that would allow additional companies to compete to launch DOD satellites.

The following is not a definitive list, but shows key changes to the requested funding levels for military space programs in the committee’s version of the  FY2013 appropriations bill:

  • $50 million additional for SBIRS for acceleration of its ground segment automated sensor tracking and another additional $50 million for ground enhancement to support the growth of command and control capability beyond the originally approved constellation. The committee cut about $32 million for other aspects of SBIRS yielding the net increase of $68 million.
  • $30 million less than the $229 million request for AEHF
  • $37 million less than the $267 million request for Space Situation Awareness — “delay of award”
  • $25 million more than the $8 million request for EELV research and development
  • $38 million less than the $331.6 million request for GPS Operational Control Segment

Regarding acquisition of space systems overall, the committee warned against “silver-bullet acquisition concepts” and said that “[q]uick fix substitutes for years of hard-won experience are attractive but illusory.” 

The appropriations committee did not recommend increases to the Space Test Program or Operationally Responsive Space as did the authorization committee in its markup of H.R. 4210.   Also, the appropriations committee recommended a cut of $55 million to the $297 million requested for the Precision Tracking Space System in the Missile Defense Agency’s budget instead of the much deeper cut proposed by HASC that would leave only $50 million in that account.


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