Appropriators: No Space Development Agency Funds Until We Get More Info

The missile warning Space-Based Infrared System is shown here as an artist rendering. Lockheed Martin illustration.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee wants to ban the Pentagon from spending 2020 funding on the new Space Development Agency until after defense leaders send Congress a report on the organization’s future.

Together, the Air Force Secretary and the Defense Department’s research and engineering chief must submit a proposal for establishing the SDA that includes descriptions and costs of the programs and projects it expects to run in the next three years. Lawmakers also want to know how the Air Force and SDA will “coordinate and cooperate to develop an agreed-upon integrated space architecture that will guide both SDA and Air Force investments.”

Proponents argue the SDA will help speed needed capability upgrades in space, while critics say it will unnecessarily overlap with work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

A report should also tell Congress how SDA and the Air Force would jointly demonstrate and prototype new systems and transition them to full-fledged programs, where SDA would be located, how many people it would employ in the first three years, and what the plan is to move the SDA under the Department of the Air Force by fiscal 2022. A Space Force is expected to oversee the SDA if Congress approves the new service within the Air Force.

The restriction, which applies until 90 days after that report is submitted, would also fence off half the money allocated to the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared missile warning program.

SDA was created earlier this year and plans to pursue a network of proliferated satellites in low-Earth orbit to bolster communications and other missions like hypersonic missile warning. Standing up SDA would require about $150 million and 50 staffers in 2020, according to DOD budget documents.