WASHINGTON — The Biden administration in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2024 is likely to seek a significant increase for the U.S. Space Force, the National Security Space Association’s head of legislative affairs Mike Tierney said Feb. 16.

The White House is expected to release the president’s federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2024 on March 9. 

Tierney during an online forum said he has not seen any actual numbers but “things are starting to trickle out in the rumor mill.” 

“What we’re hearing is another substantial increase for the Space Force in the ‘24 request,” he added. Tierney, a veteran budget analyst, predicts the increase could be anywhere from $3 billion to $6 billion above what was requested in fiscal year 2023.

Funding for military space programs — including the Space Force and other space programs across DoD — grew from $17.7 billion in 2021 to $21.8 billion in 2022, Tierney said. In fiscal year 2023, the Pentagon requested $26.9 billion and Congress upped it to $28.5 billion 

“We’re seeing rapid growth in just a matter of three fiscal cycles,” he added. “That really demonstrates Congress’s commitment to resourcing the entity [the Space Force] that they created.”

It is reasonable to predict that Congress will continue to support larger space budgets due to concerns about Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons and a realization that U.S. space systems are vulnerable, Tierney noted.  

At the same time, lawmakers are not going to sign blank checks, he said. In the 2023 legislation, “we saw really significant oversight provisions in both the authorization and appropriations bills that effectively say: ‘we’re here to support you, Space Force and DoD, but we need you to start showing your work a little more thoroughly.”

The ongoing uproar over China’s spy balloon, he said, should not have a direct effect on space budgets but “at the optics and macro level” it helps draw attention to China as a national security challenge.

The balloon incident “in and of itself I don’t think is going to be a mover” because the threat posed by balloons is not comparable to what is happening in space, Tierney said. “Balloons are the least of Congress’s concerns relative to what they’re hearing about the threat environment” in space and other domains.

However, he said, this could ignite a debate on whether the U.S. should think about developing more sophisticated stratospheric capabilities.

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...