COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Two congressional staffers who oversee Pentagon spending believe the military should increase its investment in space programs.
Adam Harris, a Democratic staffer with the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said during an April 10 panel discussion here that while the Air Force requested roughly $13 billion for space and related programs in 2008, that figure makes up only about 10 percent of the service’s total proposed budget.
That level of funding is “not a big amount,” Harris said.
Josh Hartman, Harris’ Republican counterpart on the subcommittee staff, said the Air Force bills itself as the “air and space force,” but that the service has yet to back up the rhetoric with sufficient investment in space programs.
Among the areas deserving more money is Operationally Responsive Space — small satellites and rockets that can be launched on short notice and which can be tasked directly by commanders in the field, Hartman said.
Hartman noted that the Air Force increased its planned investment in this area in 2008, but said more could be done. The Air Force requested $87 million for Operationally Responsive Space in 2008, more than twice its current budget of $35 million.
Hartman also expressed concern with the Air Force’s latest plans for the Transformational Satellite (T-Sat) Communications System. The service requested $963 million for the program in 2008, an increase of $730 million over 2007, but roughly $500 million less than planned as of last year, according to an Air Force budget document.
The new spending profile has delayed the first T-Sat launch from 2014 to 2016, and may force the Air Force to spend about $800 million to build a fourth of the previous-generation Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) communications spacecraft, Hartman said.
The Advanced EHF satellites are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., and are expected to start launching in 2008.
Hartman questioned the decision to delay the T-Sat launch in light of the Air Force’s progress on the program in the past year. He pointed out that the Air Force resisted congressional suggestions that it purchase a fourth Advanced EHF satellite back when the T-Sat program looked riskier than it does today.
While some Air Force officials have described the decision to delay the first T-Sat launch by explaining it as an effort to realign the program due to a congressional reduction to the 2007 budget request, other officials have said the service simply needed the money for other priorities.
Other space-related activities that could used more funding include professional development efforts like the National Security Space Institute, which is based here, Hartman said. Investments in space education programs, which currently make due with modest resources, could have “huge bang for the buck,” he said.
Even as he called for greater investment in space overall, Hartman said there are some activities that appear to be getting too much funding.
One example is missile warning, where the Air Force has requested $1.04 billion next year for the Space Based Infrared System, being built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, and $240 million for the Alternative Infrared Satellite System, Hartman said. The Air Force is planning to request $4.2 billion and $3.3 billion for those programs, respectively, through 2013, according to the Air Force budget document.
The Air Force began work on the Alternative Infrared Satellite System as a potential early replacement or possible next-generation follow-on for the Space Based Infrared System, whose development has been marked by technical difficulties and cost growth. But the United States might not be able to afford funding two missile warning programs at such high levels, Hartman said.