Reports

House Armed Services Committee Hearing: “FY25 Budget Request for National Security Space Program”

U.S. House Armed Services Committee  

 Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Hearing  

  “FY25 Budget Request for National Security Space Program”   

Wednesday, May 1, 2024   

Watch the Hearing 

Introduction  

The U.S. House Armed Services (HASC) Subcommittee on Strategic Forces held a hearing entitled “FY25 Budget Request for National Security Space Programs” on Wednesday, May 21, 2024. The purpose of the hearing was to review the fiscal year 2025 (FY25) budget request for space programming related to U.S. national security. During the hearing, the witnesses discussed strategies to enhance the timely dissemination of space-based information to warfighters, efforts to integrate commercial capabilities effectively into national security space operations, and jurisdictional and collaborative challenges with respect to joint missions between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Intelligence Community (IC). More information.  

Key Highlights 

  • Both Chairman Lamborn and Ranking Member Moulton touched on the critical importance of leveraging commercial capabilities within the national space architecture, highlighting the recent release of the DOD and USSF commercial space strategies as a promising step forward.
  • Discussions regarding the FY25 budget indicated that the USSF may be more impacted by current budget constraints as a new service, especially considering preparations concerning Taiwan over the next two years.
  • The development of a nuclear weapon in space by Russia emerged as a major point of discussion during the hearing, especially given Russia’s veto of the UN Security Council resolution aimed at prohibiting such actions. Witnesses expressed concerns over this development, stressing that the DOD and Administration are closely monitoring Russia’s activities and treating the threat with utmost seriousness.
  • Witnesses shared that the DOD is evaluating the necessity for insurance and indemnification support for commercial space providers while also expressing general support for increased FAA funding to enhance launch and reentry licensing processes. 

Witnesses

  • The Honorable John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSDP)
  • The Honorable Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and Integration, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
  • Dr. Troy Meink, Principal Deputy Director, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)
  • Ms. Tonya Wilkerson, Deputy Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

Opening Statements

Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO)  

In his opening statement, Chairman Lamborn focused on the critical issue of providing timely space-based information to warfighters, particularly following the retirement of the JSTARS platform. He raised questions about whether control of the new space-based Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) system should lie with the NGA or the DOD, stressing that this decision would set precedents for future transitions of air-based missions to space. Chairman Lamborn stated that the Committee believes that the DOD should task and control the GMTI mission and any subsequent systems. In addition, he expresses the Committee’s support for incorporating commercial capabilities into national security space operations, commending OUSDP and the U.S. Space Force (USSF) for releasing strategies in this regard, requesting insights from witnesses about their plans to integrate commercial capabilities into existing government architecture. Read the Full Statement.  

Ranking Member Seth Moulton (D-MA)  

In his opening statement, Ranking Member Moulton highlighted the advancements seen in the commercial space sector, noting that while the Subcommittee has advocated for the DOD and IC to embrace commercial capabilities, they have been met with resistance. While he applauded the release of the DOD and USSF commercial space strategies, he stressed the need to fully integrate commercial capabilities into government systems. He also raised concerns over delays and cost overruns in satellite programs like the Next-Generation Operational Ground Control Segment (OCX), requesting Hon. Calvelli to provide insight into how the USSF is managing these challenges. Lastly, he highlights the jurisdictional divide between traditional space-based intelligence collection and the use of space for tactical applications, stressing that government policy should not hinder the timely use of space-based information or imagery by the Combatant Commands and Services. Read the Full Statement.  

Witness Testimony 

The Honorable John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, OUSDP 

In his testimony, Dr. Plumb outlined significant progress made over the past two years on four key space strategy and policy priorities: Space Control, Space Cooperation, Space Classification, and Commercial Space Integration. He stressed the importance of maintaining this momentum to counter the expanding range of space threats from countries like the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Iran. To that end, Dr. Plumb emphasized the critical need for timely appropriations from Congress to avoid operational disruptions caused by repeated continuing resolutions (CRs). While acknowledging the benefits of commercial space innovation, he warned of the risks associated with adversaries exploiting these services outside the U.S. regulatory regime. Additionally, Dr. Plumb discussed the DOD’s efforts to advance international space security norms, expressing support for the U.S.-Japan United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution on preventing the placement of nuclear weapons in orbit. He also highlighted ongoing dialogue with Chinese counterparts on space security issues, stating that “both sides will benefit from continuing to talk.” Dr. Plumb closed by stating the DOD’s efforts to modernize space classification policies and the recent release of the first-ever Commercial Space Integration Strategy and the corresponding USSF service-level strategy, which he believes will “pay dividends for years to come.” Dr. Plumb will depart from the OUSDP in early May, this hearing marked his last testimony before HASC in this capacity. Read the Full Statement.  

The Honorable Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and Integration, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force  

In his testimony, Hon. Calvelli emphasizes his top priority remains to “drive speed” in the space acquisition process and ensure programs are delivered on time and within budget. He stressed that this approach not only facilitates program success but also fosters future innovation by preventing the diversion of resources to cover delays or overrun costs. He also stresses the critical role of the commercial launch industry in meeting increasing launch demands. To that end, he is closely monitoring Blue Origin and ULA to ensure the two companies can scale to meet their needs. Additionally, Hon. Calvelli discussed proactive measures taken to address challenges faced by troubled programs such as Next Gen GEO, including frequent engagement and strategic reviews with portfolio managers and Program Executive Officers (PEOs). Finally, when providing updates on various programs, Mr. Calvelli highlighted the upcoming contract awards for the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) Site 2 design for the United Kingdom (UK) location this summer and the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 3 contracts later this year. Read the Full Statement.  

Dr. Troy Meink, Principal Deputy Director, NRO 

In his testimony, Dr. Meink outlined the agency’s commitment to investing in resilient satellites, fostering partnerships for maximum impact, and developing advanced tools, technology, and communication networks. Over the next decade, the NRO plans to expand its satellite operations across multiple orbits, integrating smaller, proliferated systems alongside larger systems. Dr. Meink pointed to the upcoming launch of the first phase of NRO’s proliferated architecture, NROL146. Additionally, he emphasized the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to efficiently manage constellation capabilities and support the effective delivery of data to both analysts and warfighters. Read the Full Statement.  

Ms. Tonya Wilkerson, Deputy Director, NGA 

In her testimony, Ms. Wilkerson emphasized the NGA’s commitment to leveraging both national and commercial space-based systems to provide timely and comprehensive geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) data. She highlighted NGA’s collaborative efforts with the DOD, IC, and the Department of Commerce (DOC) to optimize GEOINT collection, supporting a full range of missions such as warning, targeting, and navigation safety. Ms. Wilkerson highlighted NGA’s leadership in coordinating commercial GEOINT purchases across the government to reduce redundancy and enhance data sharing both domestically and internationally. Additionally, she discussed the agency’s investment in automation, AI, and ML to expedite operations and decision-making processes for warfighters, exemplified by programs like Maven. Read the Full Statement. 

Question & Answer

  • In response to a question by Chairman Lamborn, Dr. Plumb discussed the debate surrounding government-provided insurance and indemnification for commercial space providers. He highlighted that while there are existing government-backed insurance vehicles for the air and maritime domains (such as CRAF or VISA), there is currently no similar statutory authority for the space domain. Dr. Plumb emphasized that the DOD is not currently advocating for this but is exploring potential conditions where such insurance might be necessary. He noted that any changes to enable this would require congressional assistance.
  • In response to a question by Chairman Lamborn, Ms. Wilkerson highlighted the importance of collaboration with partners within the USSF and the NRO to leverage expertise and skills in each organization for the GMTI. She anticipates the NGA will have a supporting role in the GMIT working group to facilitate this collaboration effectively.
  • In response to a question by Ranking Member Moulton, Dr. Plumb acknowledged the need to ensure warfighters receive timely information but noted that existing classification policies were formulated before the emergence of commercial space technologies. Plumb emphasized the need to revisit policies to align with the rapid advancements in the commercial space domain, highlighting the evolution of products beyond mere imagery but the analysis of it.
  • In response to a question by Ranking Member Moulton about the effectiveness of the Space System Command’s (SCC) contractor watch list, the Hon. Calvelli recognized its utility but urged for its expansion to encompass all space enterprises under his jurisdiction rather than being limited to SSC.
  • In response to a question by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), Dr. Plumb noted the recent UN Security Council Resolution, vetoed by Russia, which reaffirms the provision of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (OST) prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons in orbit. He expressed concern over Russia’s actions, emphasizing that their veto of a resolution that merely reaffirms a commitment they have already made is troubling.
  • In response to a question by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Hon. Calvelli acknowledges concerns about potential duplication between the USSF and IC in purchasing industry data, noting that policy adjustments could mitigate such issues. However, he also underscored the effective coordination between his team, the NRO, and the NGA to ensure no duplication occurs. 
  • In response to a question by Rep. Carbajal, Dr. Plumb stated that while the FY25 budget is adequate, additional funding is always preferred. He underscored budget pressures, particularly as preparations are made for potential issues in Taiwan, noting the unique challenges faced by the USSF as a new service. Dr. Plumb emphasized that the USSF may be more impacted than other services in this respect.
  • In response to a question by Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), Dr. Plumb stated that, at times, the DOD needs the FAA to expedite the launch and reentry licensing process. However, he recognized the funding challenges that exist for the FAA. He expressed that the DOD generally supports efforts aimed at ensuring the FAA has adequate resources to improve efficiency. Hon. Cavelli emphasized the importance of collaboration between Congress and the Executive Branch to ensure efficient and effective regulations that enable the commercial space industry to fully utilize launch without hindrance. 

An archive of previous hearing coverage is available here. 

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