Pentagon Seeks To Boost Spending on EELV Rockets

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WASHINGTON — The White House is seeking $10.2 billion for unclassified military space activities in 2012, a figure that represents a 3 percent increase over the 2011 request driven by what would be a major funding boost for the Pentagon’s primary launch vehicle program, according to budget documents released Feb. 14.

The U.S. Air Force is seeking $1.76 billion for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program next year, some $450 million more than the service estimated it would need in the budget blueprint it sent to Congress one year ago. Congress has yet to pass a budget for 2011, leaving the Pentagon, along with the rest of the federal government, to operate at 2010 funding levels under a so-called continuing resolution that expires March 4.

According to the budget documents, the EELV increase would enable the Air Force to purchase four new rockets during 2012. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted recently that funding for the program would be increased to, among other things, help stabilize the U.S. launch vehicle industrial base.

The Air Force’s 2010 EELV budget is $1.14 billion, and the service requested $1.18 billion in 2011. Those budgets were designed to support the purchase of three rockets in each of those years, the documents said.

“Through these more efficient purchases of launch vehicles, we’ll start to see some of our acquisition improvements come to fruition,” Brig. Gen. Al Flowers, Air Force budget director, said in remarks posted on the service’s website.

Flowers said the service’s quest for better acquisition efficiency also applies to the satellite programs.

“We’re asking for support in buying multiple advanced extremely-high-frequency satellites and space-based infrared system satellites using innovative acquisition strategies in order to procure satellites more efficiently and stabilize work for our industrial base,” he said.

Also included in the Pentagon’s space budget request for 2012:

  • $995.2 million for the Space Based Infrared System, compared with $987.4 million appropriated for 2010 and $1.53 billion requested for 2011. The first of the new missile warning satellites is slated to launch this May.
  • $974.5 million for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications system, compared with $2.3 billion appropriated for 2010 and $598.4 million requested for 2011. The first of the new-generation satellites launched last year.
  • $481.5 million for the Wideband Global Satcom system, compared with $279.6 million appropriated for 2010 and $611.8 million requested for 2011. The 2012 request fully funds the purchase of an eighth satellite in the series, the budget documents show.
  • $482.4 million for the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System narrowband communications satellites, compared with $908.2 million appropriated for 2010 and $911.4 million requested for 2011. The 2010 and 2011 numbers reflected the purchase of satellites in each year.
  • $1.46 billion for the GPS satellite navigation program, compared with $880.4 million appropriated for 2010 and $1.05 billion requested for 2011. The Air Force is developing a series of more capable GPS satellites that are slated to launch starting around 2014.
  • $444.9 million for the Defense Weather Satellite System. The Pentagon requested $351.8 million for the program in 2011. The Air Force’s 2010 weather satellite budget is $398.9 million, but that funding was appropriated for a joint military-civil system that has since been canceled.

 

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