Status Report

CRS Report: U.S. Space Programs: Civilian, Military, and Commercial (part 3)

By SpaceRef Editor
November 19, 2003
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Military Space Issues

For several years, questions have arisen about whether DOD effectively manages its
space activities and several commissions and task forces have studied the issue. Congress
created a commission in the FY2000 DOD authorization bill to make recommendations on
the overall management of national security space programs. Chaired by Donald Rumsfeld,
the Commission released its report on January 11, 2001, shortly after Mr. Rumsfeld became
Secretary of Defense. The Rumsfeld Commission (or “Space Commission”) made sweeping
recommendations for management of DOD and intelligence community space programs (see
CRS Report RS20824 for a synopsis). Some observers believed that implementation of the
recommendations was moving slowly. According to two GAO reports (GAO-02-772, June
2002; GAO-03-379, April 2003), DOD intends to implement 10 of the 13 Rumsfeld Space
Commission organizational recommendations; by April 2003, nine had been implemented.
GAO added that is too early to assess the results of the organizational changes. The Defense
Science Board and Air Force Scientific Advisory Board commissioned a task force to review
DOD space program acquisition because of significant cost increases in several programs.
The May 2003 report of task force, chaired by former Lockheed Martin executive Tom
Young, was publicly released in September []. Four key
points are that: cost has replaced mission success as the primary driver in managing
acquisition processes, resulting in excessive technical and schedule risk; the space
acquisition system is strongly biased to produce unrealistically low cost estimates; government capabilities to lead and manage the acquisition process have seriously eroded;
and there are long term concerns about the space industrial base.

Meanwhile, DOD’s space budget is growing significantly-from $15.7 billion in
FY2002, to a FY2004 request of $20.4 billion, to a projected $28.6 billion in FY2008. Some
of that will be needed to address increased funding requirements for existing DOD space
programs that are encountering technical and schedule challenges-such as the Space Based
Infrared System and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System discussed below-but if
the anticipated increases are realized, new initiatives could be supported as well.

Early Warning Satellites: the SBIRS/STSS Programs. Among the most
prominent DOD space programs are efforts to develop new early warning satellites (see CRS
Report RS21148). Briefly, DOD is attempting to develop more capable satellites to provide
early warning of foreign missile launches, and to support missile defense objectives. The
Space Based InfraRed System (SBIRS) was proposed and approved in the FY1996 DOD
budget. It evolved to envision satellites in both high orbits and low orbits. The high orbit
system, SBIRS-High, is managed by the Air Force, and would replace existing Defense
Support Program satellites, with the primary goal of detecting missiles when they are
launched. The low orbit system was called SBIRS-Low, but was renamed the Space
Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) in 2002. It is managed by the Missile Defense
Agency (MDA), and would track missiles from launch to intercept or reentry; track warheads
deployed from the missiles; discriminate between warheads and decoys; and pass data to
other systems that would attempt to intercept and destroy the missiles or warheads.
SBIRS-High and STSS have each encountered technical challenges, schedule delays,
and cost increases. Congress has expressed concern about the programs for several years,
and in the FY2002 DOD Appropriations Act (P.L. 107-117), reduced funding for both. Both
programs were restructured during the FY2003 budget process. For SBIRS-High, in
FY2003 Congress cut $30 million from the $815 million requested (an 85% increase over
FY2002 funding) in the FY2003 DOD appropriations act (P.L. 107-248). The FY2003 DOD
authorization act (P.L. 107-314) cut it by $40 million. For SBIRS-Low, the FY2003 DOD
appropriations act (P.L. 107-248) and authorization act (P.L. 107-314) approved the full
$294 million requested.

For FY2004, DOD is requesting $617 million for SBIRS-High research and
development, plus $95 million for procurement of a backup mission control station. For
STSS (formerly SBIRS-Low), DOD is requesting $300 million, but is also requesting
funding to assess ground- and sea-based alternatives to it. In the FY2004 DOD
authorization bill (H.R. 1588/S. 1050), the House added $15 million for SBIRS-High
RDT&E, and approved the requested funding for STSS; the Senate approved the SBIRSHigh
funding, but cut STSS by $15.5 million because of “unjustified” growth in program
management costs. The FY2004 DOD appropriations act (P.L. 108-87) fully funds SBIRSHigh
and cuts $15.5 million from STSS.

Space-Based Lasers and Space-Based Kinetic Energy Weapons for
Boost-Phase Missile Defense.
Space-based lasers (SBL) and space-based kinetic
energy (KE) “hit-to-kill”weapons have been of interest in the context of missile defense since
President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) program in 1983.

Conceptually, these weapons would be able to attack missiles while they are still in their
boost phase (from launch until burnout), prior to when warheads or decoys are deployed.

Funding for research on SBL has waxed and waned over the years. From 1995-2001,
Congress added funds to the DOD request for SBL ($50 million in FY1996, $70 million in
FY1997, $98 million in FY1998, and $74 million in FY1999). Congress directed DOD in
the FY1999 DOD authorization conference report to release promptly a request for proposals
(RFP) for a space based laser readiness demonstrator, but the Air Force Scientific Advisory
Board concluded that technology was not sufficiently advanced to proceed with it. A
Boeing-Lockheed Martin-TRW team jointly began work on the demonstrator, called the
Integrated Flight Experiment (IFX), and Congress approved $148.8 million for FY2000, and
$148 million for FY2001.

In FY2002, SBL was transferred from the Air Force to the Ballistic Missile Defense
Organization (BMDO, now the Missile Defense Agency). BMDO requested $165 million
for IFX, plus $5 million for SBL optics, but Congress cut $120 million in the FY2002 DOD
appropriations act (P.L. 107-117), effectively killing IFX. Funding for technology work
continued in FY2002 and FY2003 ($49 million and $25 million respectively). In the
FY2004 budget, SBL work has been folded into the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA’s)
technology budget and is not identified separately.

The FY2002 budget also included funds for BMDO to resume work on space-based
kinetic energy (KE) weapons: $5 million for experiment design and $15 million for concept
definition. The FY2002 DOD appropriations act (P.L. 107-117) cut $10 million. The
FY2003 request was $54 million, which was approved in the FY2003 DOD appropriations
act (P.L. 107-248), but cut by $21.3 million in the authorization act (P.L. 107-314). In
FY2004, the space-based KE interceptor effort has been folded into the overall BMD
interceptors line and is not identified separately.

Antisatellite Weapons and Space Control. DOD has a long standing interest in
developing capabilities to protect U.S. satellite systems and to deny the use of space to
adversaries. For many years, antisatellite (ASAT) weapons designed to attack other satellites
in orbit were viewed as the primary means for denying the use of space to adversaries. More
recently, the term “space control” has come into use. Although ASATs are one means of
space control, the latter term includes other methods of denying the use of space to
adversaries, such as jamming satellite command links, or destroying ground control and
launch infrastructure. One disadvantage of ASAT weapons is that they may create debris
that could damage other satellites. In 2001, the Commander in Chief of U.S. Space
Command expressed reservations about using “kinetic energy” ASATs because of the
collateral damage that could be inflicted on U.S. government and commercial satellites
(Aerospace Daily, March 29, 2001).

An Air Force ASAT development program, using F-15 based interceptors, was
terminated in the 1980s because of limitations set by Congress on testing the system. An
Army ground-based kinetic-energy ASAT (KEAsat) program was later initiated, but was
terminated by the Clinton Administration in 1993 ( although technology studies continued).
DOD has not requested KEAsat funding since then, focusing instead on other space control
methods. Congress has supported DOD budget requests for space control technology
funding, but also revived the KEAsat program in FY1996, adding $30 million that year, $50 million in FY1997, $37.5 million in FY1998, $7.5 million in FY2000, and $3 million in
FY2001. None was added in FY2002 or FY2003, but in its report on the FY2004 DOD
authorization bill (S. 1050), the Senate Armed Service Committee recommended adding $4
million to the funding requested for space control in order to assess and evaluate KEAsat
technologies as part of a space control architecture, and to develop space control technologies
that leverage KEAsat capabilities and the investments already made in KEAsat. In the
FY2004 DOD appropriations act (P.L. 108-87), Congress added $7.5 million for KEAsat
under the ballistic missile defense technology line item in the defense-wide R&D budget.

Funding for space control continues. In FY1999, Congress added $15 million for space
control, and allowed some of the $37.5 million allocated to KEAsat to be spent on space
control. Congress added $3 million to the $9.8 million requested for space control
technology for FY2002; approved the $9.7 million requested for FY2001; approved $32.3
million of the $33 million requested for FY2002; and approved DOD’s FY2003 request for
space control technology of $13.8 million, as well as $40 million for a new “counterspace
systems” line item. Counterspace systems support transition of some space control activities
into the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase. The FY2004 request for
space control is $14.7 million, and for counterspace systems is $82.6 million. As noted
above, in the FY2004 DOD Authorization bill (H.R. 1588/S. 1050), the Senate increased the
$14.7 million by $4 million, while the House approved the requested funding level. In the
FY2004 DOD appropriations act (P.L. 108-87), Congress approved the requested amounts.

NRO, NIMA, and Imagery. Another aspect of national security space activities
involves the NRO. Revelations beginning in September 1995 about poor financial
management at NRO led to a review by a panel chaired by retired Admiral David Jeremiah.
The 1997 Jeremiah report made 47 recommendations. Some were adopted while others were
referred for further study. In response to continuing concerns, the FY2000 intelligence
authorization act (P.L. 106-120) established a National Commission on the Review of the
National Reconnaissance Office. That Commission’s November 2000 report found that
NRO requires the personal attention of the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the
Director of Central Intelligence and must remain a strong, separate activity focused on
innovation. The Commission warned that without such support, significant intelligence
failures could result.

In the late 1990s, recognizing that future budgets could be constrained, NRO adopted
the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) plan calling for developing more, smaller, less
expensive intelligence collection satellites. In the conference report on the FY2003
intelligence authorization bill (H.Rept. 107-789), Congress expressed deep concern about
the FIA, saying that technical and funding problems could force “untenable trades between
critical future capabilities and legacy systems.” In its report on the FY2004 DOD
authorization bill (S. 1050), SASC added $14 million to accelerate “tasking, processing,
exploitation, and dissemination” (TPED) components of the FIA to support tactical and
operational users. DOD and the intelligence community are augmenting the data provided
by NRO systems with commercial imagery (discussed earlier). The new Bush
Administration policy on commercial remote sensing directs governments agencies to use
commercial imagery to the maximum extent possible. In October 2003, NIMA awarded a
$500 million contract to DigitalGlobe to build a new satellite with 0.5 meter resolution and
give NIMA priority access to the imagery at a discounted price. NIMA reportedly is seeking
funds to award a similar contract to Space Imaging in the future.

Space-Based Radar. The FY2001 DOD appropriations (P.L. 106-259) and
authorization (P.L. 106-398) acts terminated the Air Force-NRO-Army Discoverer II
program that was to involve the launch of two satellites to demonstrate the ability of radar
satellites to track mobile (as opposed to fixed) targets on the ground. Instead, $30 million
was provided to NRO to develop and mature technologies for such a purpose. Concerns
included whether technology was sufficiently mature; the potential cost of an operational
system (the House Appropriations Committee estimated it at $25 billion); and whether DOD
could use all the resulting data. For FY2002, Congress appropriated $25 million for spacebased
radar development instead of the $50 million requested. For FY2003, it approved the
$48 million requested in the Air Force RDT&E account, but did not approve another $43
million requested in the Defense Emergency Response Fund (DERF). The FY2004 request
is $274 million. In the FY2004 DOD authorization bill (H.R. 1588/S. 1050), the Senate
approved the requested funding and directed DOD to assess the contribution SBR could
make to missile defense; the House approved the requested funding level. In the FY2004
DOD appropriations act (P.L. 108-87), Congress cut SBR by $100 million.

Developing New Space Launch Vehicles

Government and private sector launch vehicles are discussed in CRS Issue Brief
IB93062. Briefly, a 1994 Clinton Administration policy directive gave NASA primary
responsibility for maintaining the reusable space shuttle and developing new reusable launch
vehicles (RLVs), while DOD is responsible for expendable launch vehicles (ELVs). Private
sector companies also are developing new launch vehicles on their own or in partnership
with the government. U.S. government satellites must be launched on U.S. launch vehicles
unless the President grants a waiver. Government and commercial customers in the United
States and commercial customers abroad purchase launch services from launch service
companies in the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Ukraine, or India.

NASA has been attempting since the 1980s to develop a new RLV to replace the space
shuttle that would cost less and have improved safety. Several programs were started and
later abandoned. The most recent program is the Space Launch Initiative (SLI). Initially,
SLI was designed to fund several companies to develop new RLV technologies, leading to
a 2006 decision on what new vehicle to build that would be safer and more cost effective.
In November 2002, NASA refocused the SLI program on developing an Orbital Space Plane
(OS)P, and investing in technologies that would lead to a decision in 2009 on what new
launch vehicle to build. OSP is not a launch vehicle, but a spacecraft to take crews to and
from the space station. It will be launched using an existing ELV, not a new RLV. See CRS
Issue Brief IB93017 for more on OSP, and CRS Issue Brief 93062 for more on the
technology development effort, called NGLT. NASA also announced that it would fund
upgrades to the space shuttle to ensure it can safely operate until at least 2015 and perhaps
2020 and beyond, instead of phasing out the shuttle in 2012 as earlier planned. Whether that
will be impacted by the space shuttle Columbia accident or not is unclear at this time. The
shuttle is discussed in CRS Issue Brief IB93062.

DOD pursued the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program to upgrade
U.S. expendable launch vehicles to reduce launch costs by at least 25%. Lockheed Martin
and Boeing each built EELVs-the Atlas V and the Delta IV, both of which have now
successfully launched satellites. The companies and DOD shared the development costs,
although the companies now are seeking to recoup some of their expenses from DOD in the wake of a downturn in the forecast for commercial launch services that had been expected
to be a source of revenue. DOD is supportive of industry’s position, asserting that by
ensuring the health of both companies, it will have “assured access to space” should technical
problems arise with one of the vehicles. Of its $609 million request for EELV procurement
in FY2004, $157 million is for assured access. In the FY2004 DOD authorization bill (H.R.
1588/S. 1050), the House approved the requested funding level; the Senate fully supported
this philosophy, and added another $60 million. In the FY2004 DOD appropriations act
(P.L. 108-87), Congress approved the requested level of funding.

Several private companies are attempting to develop their own launch vehicles,
although market conditions make it difficult to raise financing. Title IX of the FY2003 DOD
appropriations act (P.L. 107-248) created a loan guarantee program for companies
developing in-orbit space transportation systems that could move satellites from one orbit
to another (but not launch them from Earth into orbit).

Commercial Space and Trade Issues

Commercial space launch issues are discussed in CRS Issue Brief IB93062. Briefly,
the role of the government in encouraging the growth of commercial space businesses either
by direct or indirect subsidies, or policies that help stave off foreign competitors, continues
to be debated. Some argue that the government provides indirect subsidies to launch services
companies by allowing them to use government launch sites at nominal costs and providing
a guaranteed market for a certain number of launches. Others insist that the U.S. government
is doing no more than foreign governments.

The main competitors to U.S. companies today are Europe, China, Russia, and Ukraine
(Ukraine’s Zenit launch vehicle is used for the international Sea Launch joint venture that
also includes Boeing, Russia’s Energia, and Norway’s Kvaerner). Most of the satellites that
require launches are built in the United States or contain U.S. components, meaning export
licenses are required to ship them to the launch site. Thus, the United States has substantial
leverage over the success of these competitors in offering launch services. Bilateral
agreements were signed with China, Russia, and Ukraine setting forth the conditions under
which they offer launch services, both the price they can charge compared to Western prices
and setting quotas on the number of launches. The quotas have since been eliminated for
Russia and Ukraine, and the agreement with China expired at the end of 2001. Concerns
that China acquired militarily useful information by launching U.S.-built satellites resulted
in new U.S. laws and regulations to ensure such technology or information is not transferred
to China or other countries. Aerospace industry representatives argue the new regulations
are hurting U.S. satellite manufacturing companies because customers may chose non-U.S.
companies to build satellites rather than deal with U.S. export laws. (See CRS Issue Brief
IB93062.) As discussed, another commercial space issue concerns the sale of commercial
remote sensing data with very good resolution. At issue is how to allow U.S. companies to
compete in this market without sacrificing national security interests.

International Relationships

The shifting world political situation has allowed new relationships to evolve in
international space cooperation. Increased cooperation is the result not only of changed
political circumstances, but also of constrained budgets throughout the world. All the major
space-faring countries are questioning how much they should invest in space. The same
budget constraints may preclude the initiation of new programs if a critical mass of funding
is not available.


P.L. 108-87, H.R. 2658 – FY2004 DOD appropriations act. H.R. 2658 reported from House Appropriations
Committee July 2 (H.Rept. 108-187); passed House July 8. S. 1382 reported from Senate
Appropriations Committee July 9 (S.Rept. 108-87). Passed Senate July 17. Conference
report (H.Rept. 108-283) passed House September 24, Senate September 25. Signed into
law September 30, 2003.

H.R. 1085 (Boehlert) – NASA Flexibility Act. H.R. 1085 (NASA Flexibility Act) introduced March 5, 2003;
referred to Committees on Science and Government Reform. Reported, amended, from
House Science Committee Aug. 4 (H.Rept. 108-244, Part 1). Discharged from Government
Reform Committee Aug. 4.

H.R. 1588 (Hunter) – FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act. H.R. 1588 reported from House Armed
Services Committee May 16 (H.Rept. 108-106). S. 1050 reported from Senate Armed
Services Committee May 13 (S.Rept. 108-46). Passed House and Senate on May 22, 2003.
Senate incorporated text of S. 1050 into H.R. 1588 on June 4. Conferees have met.

H.R. 1836 (Davis) – Civil Service and National Security Personnel Improvement Act. Introduced April 29,
2003. Referred to House Government Reform, Armed Services, Science, and Ways and
Means committees. Reported from House Government Reform Committee May 19, 2003
(H.Rept. 108-116, Pt. I). Discharged from other three committees July 25.

H.R. 2861 (Walsh)/S. 1584 (Bond) – FY2004 VA-HUD-IA appropriations act (includes NASA). Reported from House
Appropriations Committee July 24 (H.Rept. 108-235); passed House July 25. Reported from
Senate Appropriations Committee September 5, 2003 (S.Rept. 108-143).

H.R. 3057 (Lampson) – Space Exploration Act. Introduced September 10, 2003; referred to Committee on

S. 610 (Voinovich) – NASA WorkForce Flexibility Act. Reported (amended) from Committee on
Governmental Affairs July 28 (star print ordered September 9), S.Rept. 108-113.

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SpaceRef staff editor.