U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) Credit: CSPAN video capture

SAN ANTONIO — The House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces on Monday released its proposed language to be considered in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill includes several space policy and space procurement provisions but makes no mention of a Space Force or whether the subcommittee support the establishment of a new military branch for space.

According to several sources, the Space Force issue is expected to be taken up by the full committee and will be addressed in the HASC Chairman’s markup to be released next week by the leader of the committee Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)

The Strategic Forces subcommittee, led by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), will mark up the bill on Tuesday. Cooper has been a staunch advocate of a Space Force but Smith publicly has been ambivalent about it and has criticized the administration’s proposal for being costly and heavy on bureaucracy.

The most controversial item in the Strategic Forces proposal is to deny funds to DoD to field the W76-2 submarine-launched nuclear warhead, one of two new low-yield nuclear weapons proposed in the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review. Ranking HASC Member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Strategic Forces Member Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) called it a “partisan and irresponsible subcommittee mark that makes us less safe, hinders our ability to defend ourselves, weakens our ability to deter our adversaries, and therefore enables them to challenge us.”

Several provisions in the bill address space procurement policy and assign specific tasks to the Space Development Agency (SDA).

Space sensors for missile defense — The bill directs the Missile Defense Agency to continue development of a sensor payload for a space sensor layer for hypersonic and ballistic missile tracking, and to work with the Space Development Agency and the Air Force on the overall constellation architecture.

Satellite navigation receivers — The SDA should prototype a navigation satellite receiver compatible with systems used by NATO and Japan to increase the resilience of U.S. military positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) equipment. The results of the program could be incorporated into future blocks of the GPS program. The committee also directs the Air Force to provide a briefing to the committee by Sept. 30, 2019, on the timelines and costs for procuring GPS 3 satellites.

Commercial space situational awareness — The bill on the SDA to procure commercial space situational awareness services. The SDA and the Air Force would submit a report on using commercial SSA services to fill requirements not met currently by Air Force-developed systems.

Space operational testing — The committee directs the secretary of defense to lay out the opportunities and costs of expanding existing facilities and partnerships to support operational testing and development of technologies for national security space missions.

Commercial satellite communications — The committee supports DoD efforts to integrate commercial satellite communications into the military satellite communications architecture. It asks the secretary of defense to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee by Sept. 1, 2019, on the status of these integration efforts, and an estimate of funding required to accelerate commercial satellite communications integration.

Resilience of space architectures — The committee expresses support for Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency investments in demonstrating a proliferated low earth orbit (LEO) architecture that has the potential to offer increased resilience for U.S. national security space missions. It directs the secretary of defense to brief the committee by Dec. 1, 2019, on the progress made with DARPA’s Blackjack and any other related program developing a proliferated, global LEO constellation. DoD, SDA and DARPA must provide a report by Feb. 15, 2020, detailing the progress made, and if successful, how a proliferated LEO architecture could enhance resilience and how it would be integrated into the national security space strategy and architecture.

Commercial satellite remote sensing — The committee supports the change in responsibility for acquiring commercial imagery from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and urges the NRO to procure from commercial vendors to the maximum extent practicable. The committee expects the NRO to work with multiple commercial providers, leveraging multiple sources for high and medium-resolution satellite imagery for global coverage and high revisit rates. The directors of NGA and NRO must brief the committee by Oct. 1, 2019, on efforts to create an open and fair competitive acquisition process.

Synthetic aperture radar — The bill notes that synthetic aperture radar (SAR), unlike passive collection systems, penetrates clouds, precipitation and dense vegetation day or night. The private sector has produced smaller and affordable SAR satellites that could provide valuable intelligence to ground forces. The committee directs the secretary of the Army to brief lawmakers by Oct. 31, 2019, on opportunities and funding requirements for research in SAR technology.

Rocket systems launch program — The bill expresses support for the use of new commercial small-launch services. The committee directs DoD to brief lawmakers by Sept. 15, 2019, on the Air Force’s plan to leverage commercial investments in responsive launch capabilities and integrate them into DoD space operations.

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...