House Passes FY2014 NDAA With ORS Amendment

House Passes FY2014 NDAA With ORS Amendment

Today the House passed its version of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Among its provisions, the House rejected DOD’s request to terminate the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office and provided direction or requested reports on a number of other national security space issues.

The bill, H.R. 1960, passed 317-107. Among the many amendments adopted during floor debate, and the only one directly related to national security space, was a Lamborn (R-CO) amendment that restricts funding for the SBIRS space modernization initiative wide-field-of-view-testbed until DOD certifies that it is carrying out the ORS program as directed in last year’s NDAA. DOD wanted to terminate ORS last year. Congress rejected the request and directed DOD to provide a strategic plan for how it would implement the mission of ORS. Instead, DOD is again proposed terminating ORS this year. This bill rejects that request as well. In its report (H. Rept. 103-102), the House Armed Services Committee said it was “disappointed with the Department’s de facto proposal to terminate ORS, and is concerned that there is no enduring plan to address urgent military operational requirements for space support and reconstitution.” It “notes” that the strategic plan has not been submitted and rejects the proposal to terminate ORS.

Other national security space-related provisions include the following:

  • Commercial Communications Satellite Services
    • requires the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to brief the congressional defense committees by Oct. 1, 2013 explaining why DOD uses commercial satellite communications services from “certain foreign providers” subject to sanctions and laws such as section 1261(c)(2) of the FY2013 NDAA and the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA). Further, DOD would be prohibited from entering into leases with such countries unless the SecDef, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, waives the prohibition based on an a national security assessment that is provided to the committees. (DOD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space Doug Loverro revealed at a hearing in April that DOD was leasing satellite capacity from a Chinese-owned communications satellite.)
    • requires DOD to develop a strategy to lower the cost, through multi-year procurement, of commercial satellite services.
  • Launch and Propulsion
    • requires the Secretary of the Air Force to develop and implement a plan for a fair evaluation of competing contractors in awarding a contract to a certified evolved expendable launch vehicle provider.
    • requires the Secretary of the Air Force, in consultation with the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, to brief several congressional committees by Dec. 15, 2013 on the current and planned efforts to use Solar Electric Propulsion technology for national security space missions and the investments across government to further develop that technology.
    • requires a study by the DOD Executive Agent for Space on responsive, low-cost launch efforts and to present a consolidated plan for development of an operationally responsive, low cost launch capability within the Department.
    • commends the Air Force and NASA for working together in rocket engine technologies calling the partnership “a model for maximizing limited taxpayer dollars in an austere fiscal environment.”
    • laments the state of the solid rocket motor industrial base and believes a healthy base is needed, states that it is aware of commercial launch systems that use surplus ICBM motors, and directs the SecDef to brief the congressional defense committees on the status of those surplus motors including a cost-benefit analysis of using those motors for space launch versus acquiring new motors.
  • Space Control, Space Situational Awareness
    • requires DOD to contract with the National Research Council to review near- and long-term threats to national security space systems.
    • requires the SecDef to submit a report on the space control mission of DOD.
    • requires the SecDef to notify Congress of each attempt by a foreign actor to disrupt, degrade or destroy a U.S. national security space capability.
    • directs the Secretary of the Air Force to certify that the acquisition strategy for the Joint Space Operations Mission System program fully incorporates existing, mature technology products, based on warfighter requirements, to replace the legacy system expeditiously.
  • Navy UHF Communications
    • requires the Secretary of the Navy to brief the committee by Oct. 1, 2013 on a review of existing, high altitude near-space technologies that could augment Ultra High Frequency (UHF) capacity since the UHF Follow-on satellites are aging and the replacement Multiple User Objective System (MUOS) is delayed.
    • expresses concern about the schedule for full performance of SBIRS, which is not expected until 2018 even though the first geosynchronous satellite was launched in 2011, urges DOD to make further efforts to accelerate that schedule, and adds $20 million (for a total of $42.5 million) for further data exploitation of SBIRS.

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