Space today is in as good a position as it’s been in a very long time, said Richard McKinney, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space.
McKinney, along with Dr. Jamie Morin, the acting under secretary of the Air Force, and Brig. Gen. Robert McMurry, the director of space programs for the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, briefed members of the media on the Air Force’s fiscal 2014 Space Budget April 15 in the Pentagon..
“We’re in production,” McKinney said. “We’ve got missile warning in production, we’ve got Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, (satellites) in production, and Wideband Global SATCOM is in production. On launch — we have 10 years of 100 percent successful flights. We have more capability today than we have ever had.”
The Air Force has requested approximately $6.5 billion for its space investment portfolio in fsical 2014. The top five programs include: the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, Space Based Infrared System early warning satellites, Global Positioning System III navigation satellites, AEHF military communications satellites, and space situational awareness systems.
The fiscal 2014 request is slightly higher than the fiscal 2013 request of $6.3 billion for its space investment portfolio, but does not reflect the cuts that would take place under sequestration. It does, however, reflect the Air Force’s ongoing commitment to providing enhanced space capabilities to the joint team.
“We continue to offer the nation these space capabilities which are a tremendous force multiplier,” Morin said. “Relying on space, whether it’s reliable communications or precision navigation or warning of what others might be doing in space or warning of missile launches, all of that enables the other parts of the joint team to function very effectively and provides those force multipliers we’re relying on.”
And being a force multiplier is something that is all the more essential as budgets are under stress, Morin said.
“We’ve been working hard to take costs out of the space programs. We’ve had some real successes,” he said, highlighting the fact that sequestration would undermine these achievements. “If we pull the rug out from under that through continued budgetary uncertainty or ill-conceived cuts, then we’re going to do a disservice to the taxpayer who is just now beginning to benefit from this effort to squeeze costs down.”
Morin also highlighted several space programs that the Air Force successfully found ways to stretch dollars and provide stability.
“The Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellite – we are now predicting more than $1 billion in savings based on the contract work that has been done on that,” he said. “On the Space Based Infrared System, we’ve already projected over $500 million in savings.”
The Air Force has also moved to a “block buy,” of launch systems, purchasing a number of items at a time, allowing for lower per-unit prices – with a path to enable competition for certified new entrants, which will allow for significant savings.
McMurry also spoke about the successes that have been achieved through the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System, or JMS.
“We’ve brought the initial operational capability in three years, and pulled $500 million out of the program while still meeting operational requirements,” McMurry said, describing a joint effort that involved moving to a commercially procured software approach.
The service has also seen success through partnerships with allies, enabling a cost-share where all parties can share the capability of the satellite.
“In both the AEHF and WGS communication satellite programs, you’ve seen us ink agreements with allies, in some cases multiple allies,” Morin said. “This is win, win, win on so many different levels. It’s promoting interoperability with key partners. It’s driving down costs to the U.S. taxpayer, and it’s building more capacity in these constellations.”
In light of these successes and efforts to drive costs down, Morin emphasized the fact that programs still remain vulnerable. However the service will continue to strive for stability in the space program to ensure it can provide those capabilities the joint team relies on.
“The Air Force’s capabilities in space are going to continue to be touchstones for the whole joint team, the whole of government and for the private sector,” Morin said. “We’re committed to enabling the joint force, providing the force multipliers that make the joint force stronger. And we’re committed to doing so in a way that’s respectful of the taxpayers’ dollar.”