Capability Over Capacity in Space

Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, along with senior USAF space officials, said the service’s Fiscal 2015 budget request for space focuses on capability over capacity, specifically in key areas such as protected satellite communications, missile warning, weather, and space situational awareness. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Fanning said the topline “white space” budget for USAF in Fiscal 2015 is some $5.3 billion. The 2015 proposal funds the Space Fence, which has been fully programmed and is set for initial operational capability in 2018, said Fanning. He also noted that space situational awareness is a high priority for DOD. Additionally, USAF removed funding for the seventh and eighth Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellites. Fanning said current analysis shows the fleet is functional beyond its predicted lifespan. The Air Force will fund a follow-on weather satellite program for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), and will study the impact of not launching the final satellite of the constellation to save money. A final decision will emerge in the Fiscal 2016 budget, he noted. Fanning also touted “significant savings” in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, stating the service has reduced the cost of launches by $1.2 billion in this year’s budget alone. “Competitive new entrants,” long term contracts, and better understandings of costs have driven these reductions.