Space Surveillance Project Gets the Ax in Pentagon Budget Proposal

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UPDATED at 4:35 p.m. EDT

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Defense Department’s $527 billion budget blueprint for 2014 would leave the majority of unclassified space programs intact with the exception of the Missile Defense Agency’s Precision-Tracking Space System and the Air Force Space-Based Space Surveillance system follow-on, which would fall to the budget ax, under the Pentagon’s plan released April 10.

If approved by Congress, the plan, which includes $52 billion more than the Defense Department was slated to receive as a result of across-the-board federal spending cuts, would provide a total of $8 billion for military space programs in 2014, a level consistent with 2013 expenditures. The plan includes funding for two GPS 3 satellites, five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) launches, two Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites and two geosynchronous satellites for the Space-Based Infrared System missile-warning constellation.

The Pentagon’s 2014 budget also would provide $403 million for the Space Fence, a high-priority effort to establish land-based radars to track and identify objects in orbit and $13 million for the Space Test Program, which received strong congressional support after the Air Force proposed canceling the program in its 2013 budget request.

The U.S. Navy is requesting $59 million in 2014 to continue funding development and procurement of the various components of the Mobile User Objective System, a constellation of satellites and ground stations designed to provide U.S. and allied forces with secure cellphone-like communications.

The Air Force budget includes nearly $1.9 billion to purchase five EELV launch vehicles used to loft military satellites into orbit and nearly $1.3 billion to upgrade the GPS by purchasing two new satellites and funding the GPS next-generation Operational Control System, which is designed to improve the performance and accuracy of the network.

In 2014, the Air Force also is seeking $652.5 million to purchase two AEHF satellites and fund research efforts aimed at replacing obsolete satellite components and inserting newer technology, according to Pentagon budget documents. The Wideband Global Satellite system would receive $52.3 million under the Air Force’s plan to procure two new satellites in 2014 and conduct studies aimed at making the communications constellation more efficient.

By eliminating the Space-Based Surveillance System follow-on satellite, the Pentagon will save $8 million in 2014. The Defense Department plans to begin studying alternative ways to conduct the space-based surveillance mission, according to the budget plan.