Pentagon Seeks More for Missile Defense, Less for Space, in Reprogramming Request

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense is seeking congressional approval to add about $137 million to missile defense accounts while trimming about $59 million from space programs in a large-scale shuffling of the 2013 budget.

The annual transferring of funds between defense accounts, known as reprogramming, adds about $54 million for ballistic missile interceptor tests and another $28 million for ballistic missile targets, according to a copy of the request obtained by SpaceNews

The House and Senate committees that oversee the Pentagon are reviewing the request. The document, dated May 17, does not take into account an approximately 8.8 percent automatic budget reduction known as sequestration.

Much of the money the Pentagon is seeking to transfer from space accounts is available because of slow progress on projects or technical difficulties, the document shows. 

Defense officials asked to move about $20 million from the Polar Milsatcom program because of the reduced scope of the Enhanced Polar System (EPS) ground system, according to the document.  

The EPS consists of extremely high-frequency communications payloads hosted aboard classified satellites operating in polar orbit. 

The EPS payloads, used primarily to communicate with strategic submarines operating in far-northern waters, will complement the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications satellites, which operate in geostationary orbit above the equator. 

For the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services program, which is used to launch the vast majority of U.S. national security payloads, about $18 million is available due to “slow execution,” according to the reprogramming request. The document did not elaborate. Congress appropriated $805 million for the program in 2013.

The Air Force also is requesting to transfer $10 million from its Defense Meteorological Satellite Program of weather satellites. The service is refurbishing two 1990s-vintage satellites — one slated to launch next year; the next on an as-needed basis — but has encountered delays due to “technology challenges” on the second spacecraft, the document said. 

While sequestration is widely considered a bane to the U.S. military, the Air Force is claiming savings from sequestration preparations in seeking to transfer $11 million from Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, the service’s procurement shop for satellites and rockets. That funding had been appropriated for anticipated staffing needs at the center, according to the reprogramming request.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon wants to push more money toward the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for upcoming interceptor tests and to bolster the U.S. missile shield. Much of the shuffling would help pay for the Obama Administration’s multiphased approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe.

About $54 million will go toward two intercept tests of the sea-based Standard Missile-3 Block1B, which has had problems in testing.

In May, a Block 1B interceptor, built by Raytheon, successfully destroyed a separating, short-range target missile in a test that company officials said would factor into a pending decision to begin full-rate production of the interceptor. But the reprogramming documents said the additional tests are necessary for a full-rate production decision. 

The additional money also would be used to upgrade the Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense 4.0 fire control system on two Navy ships. The Aegis system is used to operate the Standard Missile-3 interceptor.

The Pentagon requested the transfer of another $4 million for test planning for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the primary U.S. territorial shield.  Such tests typically cost tens of millions of dollars.

Another $13 million would go toward sensors and command and control of the U.S. missile defense systems.

The Pentagon also is seeking to add $27 million for an AN/TPY-2 X-band missile tracking radar. In September, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the United States and Japan would install an additional AN/TPY-2 X-band missile tracking radar on Japanese territory as part of expanded missile defense ties between the two countries. The radar system, built by Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., will bolster the protection of Japanese and U.S. territory against the North Korean missile threat.