WASHINGTON — U.S. military satellite procurements and contracts for launch services have been put on hold and cannot move forward until Congress passes a full-year defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond said in a statement to the House Appropriations Committee Jan. 12.

Although fiscal year 2022 started Oct. 1, Congress has not passed appropriations bills for the military or for any other federal agency. The government is operating under a stopgap spending bill, or continuing resolution passed Dec. 3 that funds the government until Feb. 18. 

Under a CR, federal agencies can continue to operate but their funding is frozen at the previous year’s levels. Of concern to the Pentagon, new programs cannot be started and unneeded programs cannot be terminated under CR funding. 

During a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on Wednesday, HAC-D Chair Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said there is a chance that no agreement will be reached by Feb. 18 and that another CR would have to be passed to avert a government shutdown. “This approach would ignore current needs and have serious and harmful consequences on our national security,” she said.

Raymond, along with the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, told lawmakers at the virtual hearing that an extended CR would be damaging to the military’s ability to maintain its equipment, train forces and modernize systems. 

“As a new service, the Space Force would be particularly impacted by limits on new starts imposed by a yearlong CR,” said Raymond. 

The Biden Administration proposed a $2 billion funding increase for the Space Force in fiscal year 2022 but the service has to continue to operate at last year’s reduced funding. For example, said Raymond, $37 million that had been allocated for various satellite programs cannot be implemented, as well as $23 million that the Commercial Satellite Communications Office was counting on to acquire commercial satcom services.

“The largest impact in the procurement account would be in the National Security Space Launch program, which ensures access to space, promotes competition, and eliminates reliance on Russian-made rocket engines,” said Raymond. “Under the CR, we would be limited to the same number of launch services from fiscal year 2021 — three — when we are planning to procure five,” Raymond added. “A yearlong CR would delay these launches by one year, slowing our ability to place previously acquired systems on orbit.”

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...