White House Objects to Space Corps, Launch Provisions in House Defense Funding Bill

Credit: Matt Wade

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Trump Administration is threatening to veto the House’s Pentagon spending bill for fiscal year 2020 unless changes are made relating to the establishment of a Space Corps, the selection of launch companies for national security payloads, and the funding for an infrared surveillance satellite system.

The requested changes were included in a 10-page statement of administration policy that objected to provisions in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020.

The statement thanked the House for its support of establishing the Space Corps, but said changes are required in how it will be implemented.

” The Administration requests the inclusion of additional technical and conforming amendments, such as pay and allowances for members of the new Armed Force, retirement of officers and enlisted members, and original appointments of commissioned officers,” the statement said.

“Finally, the Administration urges the Committee to consider authorizing the Secretary of Defense to begin transferring appropriate Air Force and non-Air Force personnel to the new Armed Force in FY 2020, and authorize a senior civilian dedicated to the new Armed Force and the space domain as a whole,” the statement added.

The U.S. Air Force plans to down selected to two providers to launch national security payloads as part of its Phase 2 selection. The House bill includes two provisions the administration objects to:

  • allowing other launch companies to challenge the two selected providers after the first 29 launches; and,
  • establishing a $500 million certification and infrastructure fund for outside companies that successful win a contract after the initial 29 launches.

The statement of policy said the provisions would be expensive and unnecessary.

The Administration strongly objects to this provision as it would increase mission risk for the Nation’s national security satellites. After careful and considered study, DOD determined that a contract for national security space launch requirements over the course of five years would optimize warfighter flexibility, minimizes mission risk, and provides exceptional value to the taxpayer. It would also align with the conclusion of the current generation of several satellite architectures.

Confining Phase 2 to fewer missions would increase per-launch cost while simultaneously introducing risk and costs for some intelligence payloads. Finally, notifying Congress prior to a contract would be a departure from long-standing tradition and might put DOD at a greater risk of a protest.

The Administration also objected to a $376.4 million reduction in requested funding for the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) surveillance satellite system. It said the cut would increase program costs by $475 million and delay delivery by three years.

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 2500 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020

Space-Related Objections

United States Space Corps Sections (921 – 925). The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for the establishment of a sixth branch of the Armed Forces focused on space within the Department of the Air Force. Elevating the space domain to be on par with the air, land, and sea domains is critical to the Nation’s future defense. In order to achieve the Committee’s intent, the Administration requests the inclusion of additional technical and conforming amendments, such as pay and allowances for members of the new Armed Force, retirement of officers and enlisted members, and original appointments of commissioned officers. Finally, the Administration urges the Committee to consider authorizing the Secretary of Defense to begin transferring appropriate Air Force and non-Air Force personnel to the new Armed Force in FY 2020, and authorize a senior civilian dedicated to the new Armed Force and the space domain as a whole.

National Security Space Launch Program (Section 1601). The Administration strongly objects to this provision as it would increase mission risk for the Nation’s national security satellites. After careful and considered study, DOD determined that a contract for national security space launch requirements over the course of five years would optimize warfighter flexibility, minimizes mission risk, and provides exceptional value to the taxpayer. It would also align with the conclusion of the current generation of several satellite architectures. Confining Phase 2 to fewer missions would increase per-launch cost while simultaneously introducing risk and costs for some intelligence payloads. Finally, notifying Congress prior to a contract would be a departure from long-standing tradition and might put DOD at a greater risk of a protest.

Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) (Section 4201). The Administration strongly objects to the Committee’s reduction of $376.4 million for the Next-Gen OPIR program as it would delay delivery by three years and increase overall program costs by over $475 million.