WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a $826.4 billion spending bill for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2024, about $285 million above the Biden administration’s request.

The bill, however, recommends nearly $1 billion in cuts from the U.S. Space Force’s $30 billion request.

The HAC defense subcommittee, which in recent years has proposed increased spending for the Space Force, said the cuts recommended in its 2024 markup reflect concerns about programs’ performance and Space Force justifications.

In a report accompanying the defense spending bill, the HAC-D notes that the Space Force’s $30 billion request is 15 percent higher than last year’s enacted level, “continuing a trend of double-digit growth over the past several years.”

But despite these significant increases, the committee said, “the budget request continues to include serious shortfalls and disconnects.”

The HAC-D calls out the Space Force for not budgeting funds for some programs over the five-year spending plan. Not providing long-term projections irks appropriators because it denies them visibility of total program costs, and puts the onus on Congress to add funds to keep programs going.

The committee identified the following programs for not being funded over the five-year defense plan: 

“The Space Force should not count on continued double-digit topline budget increases to address future funding shortfalls or reduce acquisition risk,” said the HAC-D report. 

Cuts spread across several programs 

According to an analysis of the HAC-D bill by the consulting firm Velos, to make $1 billion in spending cuts, the committee trimmed a number of programs across the Space Force’s research, development and acquisition accounts. 

The largest share of the cuts are for classified programs, which are reduced from $7 billion to $6.4 billion.

Communications satellites programs and GPS ground and space systems collectively were trimmed by about $200 million. 

The committee said it “remains very concerned about programs the Space Force has reported as its poorest performing acquisitions.”

These include: The GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System (OCX) program, the Space Command and Control (Space C2) program, the Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) for secure satellite communications, the GPS receivers known as Military GPS User Equipment Increment 1, and the Enterprise Ground Services (EGS) architecture intended to replace legacy ground stations.

“OCX is nearly seven years late and not yet delivered. This is unacceptable and demands senior leader attention,” said the HAC-D.

The committee also challenged the Space Force’s plans to eliminate a Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared missile-warning geostationary satellite.

Next Gen OPIR “is a critical component of the strategic missile warning and nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) enterprise,” said the HAC-D. 

“The committee is troubled by the lack of analysis to support the proposal to cancel the GEO–3 spacecraft, especially given its importance to the NC3 mission.”

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...