— The U.S. House Appropriations Committee recommended July 22 more than doubling the U.S. Air Force’s proposed 2010 budget for a military satellite communications system and resurrecting a missile defense demonstration program the Pentagon has targeted for termination.

The committee, in its markup of the 2010 defense appropriations bill, proposed adding $425 million to the Air Force’s $335 million request for the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite communications system. The additional funding was included to fully fund procurement of the seventh satellite in the series, according to language in the report accompanying the bill. Buying a seventh satellite has been part of the Air Force’s plan, but it did not request full funding for the satellite in 2010.

Meanwhile, the House bill recommends curbing spending on several other
military space efforts. 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 Space Fence, a network of ground-based radars, and the Space Based Space Surveillance system are key elements of the Pentagon’s effort to improve its ability to keep tabs on objects in Earth orbit. Plans to upgrade the Space Fence have been deferred in recent years, and while the first Space Based Space Surveillance satellite is slated for launch this year, Air Force officials had hoped to procure a second craft from Boeing Co. of Chicago.

The Pentagon’s 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. ORS officials have argued the office’s mandate to develop the ability to rapidly augment and reconstitute space-based capabilities requires that it operate outside of the traditional Pentagon bureaucracy.

The committee recommended adding $25 million in research and development funding to the Air Force’s 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 to 2030. The plan must contain a new assessment of the cost savings that were promised when Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. merged their EELV businesses under a joint venture called United Launch Alliance, as well as a roadmap for infusing new technology into the rockets.

The committee 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 funding needed for individual space programs and to sustain the
industrial base, the report said. The strategy would be due to Congress in March 2010.

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

In the missile defense arena, the committee recommended funding the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program at $80 million next year, despite the Defense Department’s bid to kill the technology demonstration program.

Defense Department officials said the KEI program was terminated because of cost increases, schedule delays and a lack of technological maturity. Northrop Grumman Corp. of
Los Angeles
is prime contractor on the development program, which was expected to culminate in a high-speed booster flight demonstration this year. According to language in the report accompanying the bill, committee members seek to leverage some of the technologies developed under KEI for an early intercept capability and other missile defense applications.

The proposed bill provides less money than requested for several other Missile Defense Agency programs: the 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 proposed reductions are marginal relative to the size of the requests for these programs, however. The Missile Defense Agency requested $1.8 billion for the Aegis system, $967 million for tests and targets and $302 million for special programs, for example. On the other end of the scale, the requests for the Space Tracking and Surveillance System and X-Band radar programs were $180 million and $175 million, respectively.