NDAA compromise bill wants more focus on satellite protection, responsive launch

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The compromise bill does not authorize a Space National Guard as a reserve component of the U.S. Space Force

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan compromise version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act released overnight on Dec. 6 directs DoD to figure out a strategy to protect military satellites from threats in orbit. And it continues to press the Space Force to work with commercial launch providers on new concepts of operations. 

The bill moved to the House floor Dec. 7. Senate leaders said they plan to take up the NDAA some time next week.

On space policy, the compromise bill does not authorize a Space National Guard as a reserve component of the U.S. Space Force, which had been included in the House Armed Services Committee’s version. The administration and the Senate opposed it.

The NDAA requires DoD to lay out a “strategy and requirements for the protection of DoD satellites.” The bill “recognizes the need to shift to a more resilient and defendable national security space architecture” and requires the Chief of Space Operations to work on a strategy in collaboration with the Director for National Intelligence.

The Space Force also is directed to “include defense and resiliency requirements prior to the start of any new major satellite acquisition program.”

The NDAA calls for DoD to fund “tactically responsive space” demonstrations with commercial launch providers where satellites would be deployed on short notice, and requires a report on the resiliency of current launch sites and spaceports.

More funding for DoD

The NDAA authorizes $857.9 billion for DoD, or $45 billion more than what the Biden administration requested. 

Todd Harrison, defense budget analyst and managing director of Metrea Strategic Insights, said he expects the NDAA to pass by the end of the next week.

The additional funding for DoD is only an authorization as the NDAA does not set appropriations. 

The government is only funded through Dec. 16 under a temporary measure. Speaking Dec. 7 at an event hosted by the investment advisory firm Canaccord Genuity, Harrison said he is skeptical Congress will come up with a spending agreement and likely will keep funding the government under a continuing resolution. 

Congressional leaders and the White House have discussed an omnibus appropriations bill combining 12 government spending bills into one big package. “If this gets resolved before Christmas, it’s in an omnibus bill,” said Harrison.

But there are growing doubts that will happen as House Republicans want to punt the appropriations bill until they take over the majority in January, he said. “That’s going to give them a better position to negotiate their own priorities in appropriations,” said Harrison.

“I don’t think that their priorities for defense appropriations are really that different than what we’re seeing from Democrats,” he added. However, Republicans want to negotiate reduced levels of non-defense appropriations. “If they don’t strike a deal now, then we’re looking at probably March at the earliest before we get appropriations passed.”