Space was the topic of discussion for Air Force leaders March 5, during on-going talks about the fiscal year 2015 budget at the Pentagon.
Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs Dr. Troy Meink and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Director of Space Programs Maj. Gen. Robert McMurry, talked about the future of the space budget for fiscal year 2015.
“While building our fiscal 2015 budget,” Fanning said, “we focused primarily on capability over capacity across the Air Force portfolio in order to build an Air Force that can fight and win in an increasingly contested environment in all domains. This extended to our space investments.”
Space, once called the ‘final frontier,’ is no longer a sanctuary; it’s a much more developed terrain, much more congested and contested than ever before.
“Space is also a fundamental pillar of our nation’s economic might and global influence. It is an enduring source of American strength, a precious and perishable strategic resource that must be protected,” Fanning said. “Adversaries recognize this tremendous asymmetric advantage and are actively pursuing ways to challenge us in the domain and negate the advantages that our space-based capabilities deliver.”
The U.S. once had a significant technological advantage in space, but as more nations enter the market Fanning believes our lead is eroding. He said the investment choices we make today will shape the space capabilities we have in the future.
“To maintain freedom of movement in a contested domain we must continue to invest in material and non-material solutions that ensure the availability of space capabilities even in anti-access, area-denial environments. An agile architecture that provides enhanced resiliency and redundancy is critical to maintaining our advantage in space.”
Disaggregation, distribution, diversity, proliferation and protection are some of the techniques being pursued to improve Air Force space system resiliency.
“The Air Force is committed to disaggregation…and [is] aggressively embracing the concept as a way to meet the increasingly contested environment in space, but also to make sure that we’re more resilient and agile in meeting the mission in space,” McMurry said.
In fiscal 2015 the Air Force will acquire three launch services and plans to launch 10 missions while also continuing the evaluation and certification of potential new entrants.
Fanning said specifically, the fiscal 2015 president’s budget removes funds for Advanced Extremely High Frequency 7 and 8, but it also funds the evolution of AEHF tactical and strategic capabilities. The funding removed by the divestment of AEHF 7 and 8 may be restored if the Protected SATCOM Services alternative of analysis proposes additional AEHF satellites. Current analysis indicates they will remain functional for longer than initially predicted. Therefore, replenishment of these satellites is not required until FY27.
The budget funds Weather Satellite Follow-on to the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, DMSP, and continues testing of the final DMSP launch (F20) through fiscal 2015, to serve as a backup to the DMSP F19 launch in April of this year.
“DOD and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration will conduct a study on the impact of not launching fiscal 2020 for final disposition and decision in the fiscal 2016 budget,” Fanning said.
It solidifies long-term stable commitments for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program yielding significant contract savings while aggressively pursuing competitive New Entrant opportunities. The EELV program uses competition, long term contracts where there’s only one provider, and good understanding of costs to get increasingly better deals for the government.
In this year’s budget, the program was reduced by an additional $1.2 billion. Combined with prior year Air Force reductions and savings for the National Reconnaissance Organization, total program reduction has reached $4.4 billion since the fiscal 2012 budget.
“We remain committed to competition,” Meink said. “The Air Force team that negotiated the savings in the EELV program has done a remarkable job, but it’s not lost on us that the increased competition helped us negotiate those savings.
“The rephasings we’re talking about in space [are] not unique to the space domain. They cut across all aspects of the Air Force because of the budget environment and the budget uncertainty. Even with the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, it’s still easing us into sequestration in 2016,” Meink said.
The budget re-profiles Global Positioning System, GPS-III, to meet constellation sustainment demands. It funds the Space Fence, a critical space situational awareness capability for improved detection of small object threats with a 2018 initial operating capability. It funds the Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals to achieve Presidential and National Voice Conferencing initial operating capability in fiscal 2019. And it balances resiliency with affordability and examines disaggregated concepts for space systems.
“However, if BCA level cuts are re-imposed in 2016 and beyond we would have to decrease our funding in three programs – Weather Satellite Follow-On, GPS-III, and Space-based Satellite Surveillance Follow-on,” Fanning said. “This increases the likelihood of a program being delayed which subsequently could add increase to the overall cost.
“Further, we would be unable to procure one of the three GPS-III satellites planned in fiscal 2017 and four Counter Communication Systems units being procured for the Air National Guard,” Fanning said. “Bottom line, the sequestration slope will have drastic impacts on Air Force programs and capabilities across the portfolio, including in space.”
Air Force’s space program and the people who operate it are a national treasure, Fanning said. It takes approximately 15,000 of Airmen across the total force – active, Guard, Reserve and civilian – conducting space surveillance, launching satellites and providing missile warning 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Over the past 16 years the Air Force invested more than $100 billion in cutting edge space capabilities. In calendar year 2013, the Air Force launched eight National Security Space missions for a total of 68 consecutive successful EELV launches, and 98 consecutive successful NSS missions
“Military personnel and our interagency partners depend on Air Force space operations to perform their missions every day, and multi-billion corporations and businesses also depend on the Air Force space capabilities for critical information like GPS location, timing data, and advanced notice of debris threats to commercial satellites,” Fanning said. “[Those airmen] are taking care of our combatant commanders and this nation. They perform their mission extraordinarily well and with enormous pride.”