WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command submitted a combined $2.3 billion in “unfunded requirements” to Congress last week, with the vast majority of the funds requested for classified programs aimed at space control, space superiority, and space domain awareness.  These are broad categories of technologies sought by the military to protect U.S. assets in orbit from anti-satellite weapons being developed by China and Russia. 

The unfunded priorities list is an annual ritual in which the military services detail important priorities and capabilities left out of the president’s official budget request. The items in the Space Force’s $1.1 billion and Space Command’s $1.2 billion lists did not make it into the fiscal year 2025 budget proposal the Pentagon submitted to Congress on March 11, which included $29.4 billion for the Space Force. Space Command is a combatant organization that relies on the Space Force to acquire the space hardware and systems needed for operations in the space domain. 

Funds needed to improve satellite defense

Gen. Stephen Whiting, head of U.S. Space Command, said in a memo to congressional committees that the funding is crucial to defend U.S. satellites from threats posed by anti-satellite weapons being developed by China and Russia. These weapons, if used, could disrupt Global Positioning System satellite navigation, communications, and intelligence gathering capabilities vital to the U.S. military.

“Chinese and Russian threats in the space domain pose a dangerous challenge to the American military instrument of national power and our modern way of life,” Whiting wrote. “Their increasingly assertive actions have created threats to our critical space infrastructure and national space power, putting all branches of the military at risk.”

He noted that Russia “presents an acute threat as it becomes increasingly focused in its cyber, nuclear and space capabilities.”

The requests for space control, space superiority and space domain awareness technologies did not provide specifics due to classification.

Space control involves measures to ensure U.S. military operations in space while denying adversaries the same. Space superiority is the capability to maintain freedom of operation in space for the United States and its allies. And space domain awareness refers to tracking objects and activities in orbit to avoid collisions and detect potential hostile actions.

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...