Reports

House Appropriations Committee: “Budget Hearing – Fiscal Year 2025 Request for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force” 

U.S. House Appropriations 

Subcommittee on Defense 

Budget Hearing – Fiscal Year 2025 Request for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force 

Tuesday, April 30, 2024 

Watch the Hearing  

Introduction  

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense (HAC-D) held a hearing entitled “Fiscal Year 2025 Request for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force” on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. The purpose of the hearing was to review the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) budget request for the Department of the Air Force (DAF) with respect to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Space Force (USSF). During the hearing, the witnesses discussed various topics, including budgetary concerns, the strategic threat posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the implications of Legislative Proposal 480 (LP480), as well as advancements in space capabilities, infrastructure challenges, and efforts to enhance recruitment and retention strategies within the USAF and USSF. More information.  

Key Highlights

  • The hearing focused on budgetary concerns, with Chairman Cole and Subcommittee Chairman Calvert expressing apprehensions about the DAF’s budget constraints. They highlighted program management issues and delays in delivering critical equipment, raising questions about resource allocation and the DAF’s ability to balance operational readiness with modernization efforts.  
  • Secretary Kendall discussed LP480, stressing its importance for operational effectiveness by integrating individuals from the National Guard into the USSF within their current roles and functions, affirming it as the best solution. Gen. Saltzman expressed concerns about the potential consequences of personnel seeking alternative missions, which could lead to capability gaps within the USSF.
  • Gen. Saltzman underscored the creation of the USSF Futures Command as pivotal for streamlining efforts in the face of great power competition, aiming for establishment by late summer to early fall.

Witnesses

  • The Honorable Frank Kendall III, Secretary, Department of the Air Force
  • General David W. Allvin, Chief of Staff, Department of the Air Force
  • General B. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations, United States Space Force

Opening Statements

Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK)  

In his opening statement, Chairman Cole expressed support for the DAF’s efforts to pivot some missions from aircraft to space. However, he raised concerns regarding the timing and delivery of some of these new platforms and assets, emphasizing the importance of maintaining air capability alongside the development of space assets. He stated that while “space assets are projected to offer great capabilities for our warfighters…they have not been delivered yet.” Furthermore, he highlighted specific program delays, such as the procurement of the E-7, arguing that “space capabilities for airborne early warning and battle management are nascent and should not be solely responsible for these missions.” Chairman Cole could not attend the hearing and submitted his opening statement for the record. Read the Full Statement.  

Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)  

In her opening statement, Ranking Member DeLauro emphasized Congress’s duty to ensure the USAF and USSF have adequate resources. She highlighted that the President’s FY25 budget supports a 4.5 percent pay raise for service members and initiatives to improve healthcare, childcare, housing, and subsistence needs. She commented on the relatively flat budget for the USSF and requested additional information on how the USAF and USSF are addressing recruitment efforts, particularly among women. Read the Full Statement.  

Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R- CA) 

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Calvert expressed concerns regarding the flat budget request of $29.4 billion for the USSF for FY25, highlighting that with inflation, it amounted to a “real dollar cut.” While recognizing the increasing reliance on space capabilities, he questioned the budget’s ability to deliver necessary capabilities and sought clarification on what risks are being taken in the space portfolio. Chairman Calvert also highlighted issues with program management, particularly regarding delays in delivering ground systems and user equipment, citing examples such as the GPS ground control system being more than 3 billion over budget and more than seven years late. He applauded the progress of the Space Development Agency (SDA), stating the Committee is “willing to give the USSF resources to take risks and pursue new approaches when warranted, and SDA has lived up to its investment so far.” Additionally, Calvert raises concerns about decreased funding for innovation and rapid fielding accounts, emphasizing the importance of organizations like AFWERX and SpaceWERX in fostering innovation. Finally, he requested information on recruitment strategies for the DAF. Read the Full Statement.  

Subcommittee Ranking Member Betty McCollum (D-MN)  

In her opening statement, Subcommittee Ranking Member McCollum noted the importance of remaining vigilant against pacing threats and emphasized the need for a whole-of-government approach to national security. Moreover, she stressed the significance of maintaining technological superiority in both the air and space domains, which will require educating and training the future STEM workforce. Ranking Member McCollum expressed concerns about budgetary constraints impacting various programs and infrastructure with the USAF and USSF, including sinkholes at Vandenberg Space Force Base and damaged infrastructure in Guam following last year’s typhoon. Read the Full Statement.  

Witness Testimony

The Honorable Frank Kendall III, Secretary, DAF 

In his testimony, Secretary Kendall highlighted that due to the dominance of R&D accounts in the USSF budget, there have been marginal reductions in the pace and scope of modernization programs. He emphasized the DAF supports the National Defense Strategy through investments in domain awareness, air and space defense, early warning, and cyberspace defense. Additionally, he underscored the challenge posed by the PRC, whose national purchasing power exceeds the U.S. He warned that the PRC is actively expanding capabilities “to challenge strategic stability, attack our critical space systems and defeat our ability to project power, especially airpower.” Read the Full Statement. 

General David W. Allvin, Chief of Staff, DAF 

In his testimony, Gen. Allvin highlighted the challenging strategic landscape, emphasizing the need to maximize readiness in the face of great power competition from the PRC and other global threats. The USAF FY25 budget request reflects difficult decisions, with trade-offs made to maintain operational readiness while preserving previous modernization advances. Efforts are focused on modest increases in investments to sustain weapons systems and physical and cyber infrastructure. Read the Full Statement. 

General B. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations, USSF 

In his testimony, Gen. Saltzman outlined the USSF’s strategic modernization approach, organized around three guiding principles: (1) avoiding operational surprises, (1) deterring attacks on U.S. interests in space, and (3) preventing adversaries from exploiting space to target the homeland or Joint Force. To achieve these goals, substantial investments are being directed towards improving space domain awareness (SDA), representing over 8% of the FY25 budget. He also addressed the mounting threats posed by adversary counterspace forces, highlighting vulnerabilities in airborne systems and the proliferation of long-range precision strike systems. To that end, the USSF is investing $2.58B, or 55% of the total space-based missile warning budget, to field a proliferated multi-orbit missile warning network and $7.25B, or a quarter of the USSF’s FY25 funding, in capabilities to counter an adversary from using space to target the U.S. or the Joint Force. Gen. Saltzman voiced apprehensions regarding the potential of a year-long continuing resolution (CR), warning that it could “severely hinder launch procurements, reducing the USSF’s on-orbit capability and cause industrial base challenges.” Notably, he emphasized the ongoing development of the USSF’s commercial space strategy, aligning it with both the DAF and the DOD policy frameworks. Additionally, he underscored key priorities and programs, such as establishing the Space Futures Command, implementing the USSF Personnel Management Act, and fostering partnerships across services and the Joint Force, as key to strengthening the USSF’s future. Read the Full Statement.  

Question & Answer  

  • In response to a question by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), Secretary Kendall explained that LP480 would affect approximately 578 individuals and aims to integrate them into the USSF within their current roles and functions. Kendall emphasized that LP480 is “by far, the best solution,” asserting that the integration is crucial for the USSF’s effectiveness and not an attempt to dismantle the National Guard. Gen. Saltzman stated that as a guardsman, he understood the importance of the dual mission of the National Guard but was concerned about the potential for personnel to seek alternative missions, which could lead to a capability gap. 
  • In response to a question by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Gen. Saltzman stated that the USSF is evaluating the military utility of space-refueling technologies to ensure effective budget allocation to technologies with clear pathways to operational capability. In addition, he discussed the USSF’s shift toward smaller, proliferated low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, which would be replaced rather than serviced on orbit.  
  • In response to a question by Rep. Aderholt, Gen. Saltzman noted the criticality of launch infrastructure and how the dramatic increase of commercial space launches from Patrick and Vandenberg Space Force Bases is “taking a toll” on the infrastructure. He highlighted the need to keep infrastructure current and capable of supporting operational tempo effectively. In addition, Secretary Kendall expressed regret over constraints this year, particularly pointing to the inability to progress on counterspace capabilities, noting it as a top priority left unaddressed. 
  • In a response to a question by Rep. Ed Case (D-HI), Chance Saltzman echoed Secretary Kendall’s comments on the importance of counterspace capabilities, expressing satisfaction with the budget’s investments in resilient architectures and operational tests and training. However, Gen. Saltzman expressed concerns about the pace of implementation for these capabilities, particularly in addressing threats targeting the Joint Force, underscoring the need for accelerated acquisition and deployment. 
  • In response to a question by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), Gen. Saltzman stated that the USSF Futures Command emerged from the need to streamline efforts for great power competition. The Command will consolidate various activities across the DAF, aggregate capabilities, evaluate operational concepts, conduct wargaming and experimentation, and ultimately develop force designs aligned with future requirements. He anticipates that the Futures Command will be established in late summer to early fall, with the possibility of decisions being made regarding its basing. 
  • In response to a question by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Gen. Saltzman outlined the USSF’s three-pronged approach to testing hypersonic tracking capabilities, leveraging (1) digital simulations, (2) range testing, and (3) real-world events when they occur. He expressed confidence in achieving a demonstration of the proliferated warfighter architecture by FY26, with Tranche 1 set for delivery in late 2024.

An archive of previous hearing coverage is available here. 

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