Space Development Agency Director Fred Kennedy outlines his vision for a space architecture that leverages commercial industry to deliver military capabilities. Credit: Tom Kimmell for SpaceNews

WASHINGTON — House appropriators would block funding for the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency until 90 days after the secretary of defense submits a detailed plan for the new agency. The language is included in the draft of the proposed fiscal year 2020 funding bill for the Defense Department released on Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

The HAC defense subcommittee will mark up the bill in a closed session on Wednesday. The bill provides $690.2 billion in discretionary spending for the Defense Department, an increase of $15.8 billion above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level, and $8 billion below the Trump administration’s request.

The legislation restricts funds for the SDA and provides $15 million to further study the establishment of a Space Force, compared to $72 million requested by the Pentagon to begin standing up the new service headquarters.

The language on the SDA reflects concerns voiced by lawmakers in recent hearings about the Pentagon creating a new Space Development Agency but providing few specifics about its role and responsibilities, including how the SDA fits into the larger landscape of military organizations that develop space technologies.

The same provision that fences SDA funds also blocks 50% percent of the funding for the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program to develop a new constellation of missile defense satellites.

According to the draft legislation, no appropriated funds could be obligated or expended by DoD for the Space Development Agency, and no more than 50% of the funds appropriated for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared can be obligated or spent, until 90 days after the secretary of defense submits several reports to the congressional defense committees:

• A description of the programs and projects the SDA plans to carry out over the next three years, including associated funding requirements.
• A description of how the Air Force and the SDA will coordinate and cooperate to develop an agreed-upon integrated space architecture that will guide both SDA and Air Force investments.
• The process by which the SDA and the Air Force will cooperate in demonstrating and prototyping new capabilities, and transition to programs of record.
• The proposed physical location of the SDA, the proposed number of government and contractor personnel expected to comprise the SDA in the first three years; and a plan to transition the SDA into the Air Force not later than fiscal year 2022, or into a Space Force.

With regard to the Space Force, the bill includes $15 million for expenses “necessary to study and refine plans for the potential establishment of a Space Force as a branch of the Armed Forces.” The legislation notes that “nothing in this provision shall be construed to authorize the establishment of a Space Force.”

Appropriators also restrict DoD from transferring any assets or funds from the National Reconnaissance Office to the Space Force. “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act may be used to transfer any element, personnel, property, or resources of the intelligence community, as defined in section 3 of the National Security Act of 1947, to the Space Force.”

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...