- Parabolic Arc
- May 26, 2023
House Appropriators on Space Force, SDA: Meh!
SpaceNews reports that House Appropriators have included no money for the Trump Administration’s Space Force in a bill it is scheduled to mark up on Tuesday. Legislators are also seeking more information about the Space Development Agency.
The draft report accompanying the committee’s proposed fiscal year 2020 defense spending bill notes that the decision to not back the $72 million request should not be read as a complete rejection of the idea of establishing a Space Force.
“The Committee recommendation does not fully fund the request to establish the proposed Space Force,” says the draft report obtained by SpaceNews. “The Committee makes this decision without prejudice and includes funds for the Department to examine and refine alternative organizational options that will streamline the management and decision-making process and minimize overhead cost and bureaucracy.”
Defense officials have said they estimate the Space Force will cost no more than $2 billion over five years but have not provided detailed analysis to back that up, according to congressional officials. The Senate Armed Services Committee has done due diligence and directed the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the future costs of the Space Force, U.S. Space Command and the Space Development Agency. The CBO in a report laid out a number of scenarios. On the Space Force, it projects costs significantly higher than $2 billion over five years. The Pentagon has challenged those estimates.
On the Space Development Agency, the committee backs defense appropriators’ recommendations to seek more specific details on the SDA’s space projects. “While the Committee is generally supportive of the concept of the Space Development Agency, the Committee is concerned that this effort may create a parallel space program that will overlap and duplicate existing programs and missions in the Air Force.”
5 responses to “House Appropriators on Space Force, SDA: Meh!”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
One reason to get Planetary Defense under the purview of Space Command and SDA (and eventually Space Force) is that it can be used as a National Security justification for almost any manned spaceflight activity besides a Mars mission. Planetary Defense will require a robust human presence in space which requires building infrastructure and exploiting lunar resources. So right there is the rationale for moving DoD money from the aircraft carrier account to the moonbase account.
Nobody’s eager to build a US Space Force anywhere close to as large and expensive as the US Air Force or Navy, resulting in a trillion dollar per year DOD bill, so I expect both Republicans and Democrats to drag in their heels at anything which even hints at leading to “a robust human presence in space” for years, or even generations to come.
Why do something which might provoke Russians and Chinese and (eventually) India to try to match our efforts and which might threaten us all with orbiting weaponry? Maybe we should try diplomacy and UN treaties to avoid, or at least postpone, such problems.
My 2 cents.
Indeed, I would be surprised at any continuing human Space Force presence in space any time in its first 10 years. While Planetary Defense *may* be a Space Force mission in the future, as opposed to using a Space Guard evolving out of the Commerce Department’s S.P.A.C.E. Administration coming on, it has security concerns for Space Force’s main mission.
That main mission is preserving the “force multiplier” advantages of the 5-6 dozen MilSpace assets the US has operational today. These assets allow the US military to communicate, navigate, and recon its opponents better than anyone else can today. Both the PLA’s Strategic Support Force and the Russian Aerospace Force’s “Space Troops” have been tasked since 2015 with disrupting those advantages, through Space War and Cyber War, specifically.
Preventing that disruption is the main purpose of Space Force. The problem with Space Force accepting Planetary Defense as a mission is that it will require intense communications with every major spacefaring State. That, in turn, leaves vast possibilities for the Cyber War components of the PLASSF to penetrate the computer networks that Space Force will be using. This communications conundrum is also inherent in orbital debris cleanup as a Space Force mission.
That is why I would far rather see a Space Guard growing out of the Commerce Department, first enforcing US regulations on US companies, then prioritizing doing orbital debris cleanup, and only then taking up responsibility for Planetary Defense. The communications requirements of these tasks will make for a very hard push to keep Space Guard’s own computer networks clean. Still, even if those efforts fail, an very definite “air gap” between any Space Guard and the Space Force, with its vital US Security missions focused on our human opponents.
If Planetary Defense had been a thing back in the 70’s, the Apollo program would never have been canceled. The Space Shuttle had much less utility in that regard, so it would not have been a suitable replacement.
An effective Planetary Defense program will probably take decades to develop. Nevertheless, just having that as a goal will determine government priorities and drive their decision making. Likely, Mars exploration plans will go on the back burner as Lunar and asteroid missions move up front.
NASA never had any realistic plans for human exploration of Mars anyway, but Mars does seem to be getting back-burnered a bit even at SpaceX.
Elon seems to have caught the Moon bug. I suspect that’s because he sees going there as not only potentially quite lucrative, but also because many more trips there and back can be made over a given interval. This allows for a faster maturation and improvement of the SHS system than would be afforded by a Mars-first approach. It also makes a later Mars-centric exploration effort able to be both larger than initially planned and to enjoy a higher probability of success.
I hope this apparent switch in emphasis is made explicit and elaborated upon as part of Elon’s upcoming SHS update presentation on June 20.