U.S. Capitol Building. Credit: Wikicommons

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Dec. 15 passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 with broad bipartisan support in a 89-10 vote. The House passed the bill Dec. 7 by a margin of 363 to 70. The NDAA is now headed to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. 

The NDAA authorizes $740 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, about $25 billion more than what the Biden administration requested. 

Provisions of interest to the Space Force and the space industry:

No Space National Guard. The House initially had a provision to establish a Space National Guard as a reserve component of the U.S. Space Force. The proposal was opposed by the Senate and by the Biden administration. The NDAA still requires DoD to study options to stand up a reserve component for the Space Force. 

Classification review of space programs. The NDAA directs DoD to examine all Space Force programs to determine if the level of classification of any of these programs could be changed to a lower level or declassified entirely. 

DoD’s plans to buy services from non-GEO satellites.  Congress directs the Pentagon to brief lawmakers on military use of commercial satellite communications services, specifically those from non-geostationary orbit satellites. The provision is in response to a growing demand in the U.S. military for high-speed internet aboard Navy ships and other locations where there is no terrestrial telecom and satellite signals are the only option available. 

Space Development Agency. The secretary of the Air Force has to submit a report by March 31, 2022, on how the realignment of SDA into the Space Force will be carried out. The bill notes that a priority for SDA is to have a streamlined chain of command so it can meet its deadlines for satellite deployments and launches.

National Security Space Launch. The NDAA mandates a report from DoD and the intelligence community on efforts to improve innovation and competition in the NSSL program run by the U.S. Space Force, and to provide a plan for future investments on technologies for space access, mobility and logistics.

Tactically responsive launch. The bill directs DoD and the intelligence community to support the tactically responsive launch program, which Congress established two years ago to provide launch opportunities for commercial small-satellite launch companies. DoD has to submit a report on future plans to invest in launch providers that can provide fast-response services during emergencies or conflicts.

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...