House Appropriators Seek To Revive KEI, Boost Wideband Global

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WASHINGTON — A U.S. House of Representatives panel recommended July 16 funding the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program at $80 million next year, despite the Defense Department’s bid to kill the missile defense technology demonstration program as part of its 2010 budget request.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee, in its markup of the 2010 defense appropriations bill, provides less money than requested for several other Missile Defense Agency programs: Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system would get $20 million less; the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, $20 million less; tests and targets, $26 million less; Sea Based X-Band Radar, $13 million less; and special programs, $15 million less.

The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill July 22.

Defense Department officials said the KEI program was terminated because of cost increases, schedule delays and a lack of technological maturity. In its effort to resuscitate the booster development program, which was expected to culminate in a flight demonstration this year, the committee seeks to leverage some of the technologies developed under KEI for an early-intercept capability and other missile defense applications, according to language in the report accompanying the bill.

Meanwhile, the subcommittee recommended adding $425 million to the U.S. Air Force’s request for the Wideband Global Satcom satellite communications system but lowering the spending profile of several other programs. The $129.4 million requested for the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance missile warning system would be cut to $39.2 million; the GPS 3 ground segment would be reduced by $97.4 million; the next-generation Space Fence would be reduced by $45.2 million; and a follow-on Space Based Surveillance System satellite would be eliminated.

The Operationally Responsive Space Office would be funded at $114.4 million, $1.5 million above the request. The office would be required to subject all of its current and future programs to validation by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council or Mission Requirements Board, according to report language. The subcommittee recommended adding $25 million in research and development funding to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and directed the secretary of the Air Force and the director of the National Reconnaissance Office to submit to Congress by January a plan to ensure EELV sustainment until 2030, according to report language.

The report must contain a new assessment of the cost savings that were promised when Lockheed Martin and Boeing merged their EELV businesses under a joint venture called United Launch Alliance, and it must contain a roadmap for infusing new technology into the rockets.

The subcommittee also recommended the Defense Department develop a 30-year space investment strategy. This would serve as a long-term roadmap for future government investments and include estimates of the annual levels of funding needed for individual space programs and to sustain the U.S. industrial base, the report said. The strategy would be due to congress in March 2010.

The subcommittee recommended fully funding the Air Force’s $396.6 million request for its share of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, but said no funds could be spent in 2010 before the Pentagon’s acquisition chief certifies to the congressional defense committees that the program is being managed in accordance with a memorandum of agreement signed in December 2008 that established certain acquisition guidelines.