Ill-Advised Cuts to Military Space Investment Risks Our Nation’s Security and Jobs

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President Ronald Reagan governed our nation with a philosophy of security through protection rather than retaliation. Reagan once said, “One cannot sit in the Oval Office without realizing the awesome responsibility of protecting peace and freedom and preserving human life. The responsibility cannot be met with halfway wishes.”

It was the commitment of Presidents Reagan, Kennedy and others to lead their administrations to create and heavily invest in many of our nation’s military programs that have helped to earn our country second to none status in space. But today that status is in jeopardy. Sequestration as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 threatens to strip another $500 billion from the defense budget in fiscal year 2013, including deep cuts from the military and intelligence space budgets. This is on top of the $487 billion reduction currently being implemented.

These budget cuts come at a time when rising powers are increasing their defense spending by double digits. These cuts will have serious implications for our military’s future ability to operate effectively in regions like the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, as well as for the U.S. space industrial base.

The Aerospace Industries Association strongly believes that there are vital capabilities on the chopping block. While it is imperative that the Defense Department continues its cost effective purchasing of large satellites through block buys, research and development efforts on smaller satellites also promise cost savings that should not be overlooked.

Recently, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) pointed out that the cancellations of the long-running Space Test Program (STP) and the newer Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program neither make sense, nor do they save dollars. In particular, the budget’s proposal for ORS and STP threatens to eliminate more than 40 years of innovative investment in small military R&D satellites, with no clear path forward or vision for sustaining the critical skills and capabilities developed by these initiatives.

According to the Air Force, “The technologies behind most military satellite programs flying today, such as the Global Positioning System, military communications satellites and space-based surveillance and weather systems had their initial demonstrations as Space Test Program risk reduction experiments.” STP’s small satellites have pioneered new rapid space development capabilities, which have helped reduce the potential for additional cost growth in major systems. The ORS initiative was established by Congress just four months after China’s military successfully used a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile to obliterate a FY-1C weather satellite. ORS efforts have sought to develop low-cost, dedicated space assets for military operational requirements and the capability to rapidly reconstitute U.S. satellite power if its space assets are threatened. In just four years ORS has launched four satellites into orbit, responding to urgent needs of Joint Force Commanders and the warfighter.

Both programs have created significant technologies that keep our country safe. Substantial reductions to military space R&D efforts like these will not only impact our nation’s ability to pioneer new space technologies important to national security, they will be a troubling blow to American jobs. Second- and third-tier space industrial base firms will be forced to cancel projects and lay off workers. Where many defense space projects can take years to complete, shorter-cycle military space R&D efforts can level the playing field for smaller firms and give them the chance to compete. Cuts of this nature could further exacerbate unemployment rates and have devastating consequences for job markets throughout Virginia, Florida, Colorado and New Mexico.

Funding for military space is essential. These next generation technologies are imperative for the safety and stability of our world and our economy. To shortchange their funding today will leave us empty-handed tomorrow, ultimately failing to fulfill the vision of those whose commitments have allowed us to be second to none.

 

Marion C. Blakey is president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. For more information on AIA’s current space policy papers, visit www.aia-aerospace.org