WASHINGTON — President Biden’s $773 billion budget request for the Defense Department for fiscal year 2023 includes $24.5 billion for the U.S. Space Force and the Space Development Agency — about $5 billion more than what Congress enacted in 2022.

The White House on March 28 unveiled the president’s funding request for the coming fiscal year that begins Oct 1. The proposed $773 billion would give the Pentagon $17 billion more than what Congress enacted for 2022.

Congress in 2022 appropriated $18.05 billion for the Space Force and $1.5 billion for the Space Development Agency.  SDA is currently under the Office of the Secretary of Defense and will be absorbed by the Space Force later this year so the president’s 2023 budget combines the funding. The proposed Space Force budget also includes $1 billion that was transferred from the Air Force to the Space Force’s military personnel account.

“Space is vital to U.S. national security and integral to modern warfare,” the White House said in a budget summary document. “The budget maintains America’s advantage by improving the resilience of U.S. space architectures to bolster deterrence and increase survivability during hostilities.”

DoD said the 2023 budget supports a national defense strategy that recognizes China “as our key strategic competitor and Russia as an acute threat to the interests of the U.S. and allies.”

Breakdown of the Space Force’s $24.5 billion budget:

  • $3.6 billion for procurement of satellites and launch services
  • $4 billion for operations and maintenance (this includes 4.6% pay raise for civilian personnel)
  • $15.8 billion for research development and testing
  • $1 billion for personnel costs for 8,600 active-duty guardians

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the anti-satellite capabilities of adversaries like Russia and China require DoD to invest in advanced space systems. “This budget is driven by the threat,” he told reporters.

There was a time when the United States could “put up expensive systems in space and not worry about them. That era is over, it’s been over for a while,” said Kendall. 

Early-warning satellites that use infrared sensors to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles received a significant funding boost:

  • Funding for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) geosynchronous and polar satellites increased from $2.4 billion in 2022 to $3.4 billion in 2023
  • The Space Development Agency’s Tracking Layer Tranche 1, a constellation of 28 infrared sensor satellites gets $1 billion in 2023. The Pentagon in 2022 did not request any funding for the Tracking Layer but Congress inserted $550 million. The Tracking Layer will be deployed in low Earth orbit to detect and track Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles. 
  • Two Global Positioning System satellites are funded in the budget for $761 million. 
  • A classified satellite communications program known as Evolved Strategic Satcom gets $566 million — $406 million more than last year.

The 2023 budget includes $1.1 billion for three national security space launches (NSSL) and $314 million to launch three batches of Space Development Agency satellites to low Earth orbit. SDA plans to launch the Transport Layer in batches of 21 satellites, and the Tracking Layer in batches of 14 satellites. 

The Space Force’s national security space launch program office run by the Space Systems Command negotiated a more competitive price with the Space Development Agency that is closer to commercial pricing than the traditional NSSL missions. 

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...