Air Force leaders met with the media to discuss specifics of the service’s fiscal year 2017 space budget at the Pentagon Feb. 11.
Winston A. Beauchamp, the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, and Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, the director of space programs for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, highlighted major themes of the space budget in relation to the Air Force’s strategic understanding of the space environment.
In fiscal 2016, the Air Force focused investments in space in two major areas. First, assuring the use of space in the face of increasing threats, and secondly providing capabilities to deter and defeat potential attacks.
Beauchamp said there have been no changes to that strategy in the past year.
“All of the threats we saw last year have continued to evolve. We remain postured to get ourselves on a path to make our systems more resilient,” said Beauchamp, who also serves as the director, principal Defense Department Space Advisor Staff. “In (fiscal 2017) the emphasis is on sustaining mission capabilities while improving resilience. To achieve this outcome we approach it with several lines of effort.”
Those efforts include determining appropriate investments, leveraging the base budget to improve resilience in programs of record, revaluating operational techniques, tactics and procedures, exploring innovative contract strategies such as public-private partnerships, and utilizing international cooperation.
The Air Force plans to invest in areas such as command and control, space situational awareness, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, and satellite communications in fiscal 2017 to enhance space mission assurance.
“In command and control we know our potential adversaries are developing capabilities to deny, degrade and destroy our space capabilities,” Beauchamp said. “As countries around the world increasingly derive benefits from space, we have to join together with our allies to deal with those threats.”
For space situational awareness, the Air Force will continue its investment in the Space Fence, aiding the ability to perform collision detection and protecting those aboard the International Space Station and other manned space programs.
“We will preserve our ability to access space by investing in an indigenously produced launch capability. This serves not only as a capability to replenish our space assets as they reach end of life, but also to improve our capabilities and reconstitute our forces,” Beauchamp said. “To that end, the (fiscal 2017) fully funds the (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) program.”
To support satellite communications the Air Force will fund the Pathfinder Three program, which is a method to investigate new business models used to acquire satellite communications.
Teague said there is an emphasis on how we might better prepare for space operations through a contested environment. Although it won’t directly impact the budget, there is an effort called Space Mission Force which reorganizes space personnel into shifts where both experienced Airmen and recently trained Airmen will be blended together to work on operational teams.
This ensures appropriately experienced personnel are on the operational staff at all times should problems arise, while better developing the core workforce over time and keeping them in the operational flow.
“It’s a tribute to the Air Force Space Command professionals that they’re doing this on the fly … without any interruption to our operational systems and certainly maintaining that degree of readiness that we need to make sure that our systems are performing their missions at all times,” Teague said.
Although there will not be an increase in manpower for space, there will be a focus on making better use of the workforce currently available through initiatives like Space Mission Force.
“Our investments in (fiscal 2017) are consistent with our strategic understanding of the space environment that informed the (fiscal 2016) budget,” Beauchamp said. “We remain committed to delivering space capabilities to the warfighter in spite of adversary attempts to deny, degrade or destroy our systems in space.”