Defense Department Space Budgets Headed for Approval
Aug 6 1999
By Frank Sietzen, Jr., Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s top military space budgets appear headed for easy approval in Congress this summer, in sharp contrast to NASA’s struggle for funding. As in previous years, the Air Force retains the largest spending for defense and national security-related space activities, followed by the U.S. Navy and Army. In non-military space agencies, the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) remains the largest of the Defense space agencies, although its Fiscal Year budget remains classified.

SBIRS, EELV top priorities

The administration’s top two Air Force space projects received nearly full funding by both the House and Senate in both the Appropriations and Authorization bills. The changes to the top programs – the Space-Based Infrared Satellite (SBIRS) and the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) appear minor. (In Congress, an Authorization bill authorizes the appropriation of defense money. An appropriations bill provides the actual funding of the program in question.)

The Clinton administration requested $70.8 million in procurement funds and an additional $324.8 million in research money for the EELV space booster project. The House authorization bill trimmed $2 million from the research total; the Senate bill added $5 million to that area. The House appropriations bill cut the $70 million procurement request and $2 million from the research line. But the Senate authorization approved the administration’s request as submitted.

For the SBIRS project, the White House requested $229 million for the low-Earth orbiting part of the SBIRS system. The House and Senate authorization bills approved that amount. The House appropriations bill agreed to the request, but the Senate appropriation bill added another $50 million to the SBIRS low orbit research accounts.

Space-Based Laser, Milstar satellite

The Space-Based Laser project was the subject of a $138.8 million administration request; the House authorization bill cut $15 million from research and the Senate authorizers added $40 million to the research account. The administration asked for $361.3 million for the Milstar satellite’s research account; the House authorization bill provided for $$3 million more and the Senate authorization agreed with the administration. In the appropriations bills, the House shifted the money to $150 million for procurement and $214.3 million research for a total $364.3 million for Milstar; the Senate appropriations bill contains the same amount as Clinton requested.

The Air Force funds the bulk of the SBIRS low orbit test flights and developmental program work. Most of the ballistic missile defense funds go to the Army or the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). Missile defense funding received a $4.5 billion request from Clinton. Both the House and Senate authorization and appropriations bills increased that request by more than $400 million.

Spysats to shift rockets

The NRO operates the nation’s network of orbiting reconnaissance and spy satellites, a fleet of spacecraft that eavesdrop, monitor, and photograph the military and industrial facilities of other nations. NRO satellites are built by such contractors as Spectrum Astro and Lockheed Martin, and are launched into space by the Atlas and Titan IV boosters. Procurement of the satellites is funded by NRO, which also operates the craft; the Titan and Atlas launchers are funded through the Air Force Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV) account and the Titan launcher account. By the 2002 Fiscal Year, the launch costs for most military satellites will have shifted over to the EELV fleet. The military’s Titan and Atlas use in the next decade is to be phased out.

Back to Home Page