Congress Approves Extra Funds for Some Aerospace Programs

Lawmakers have approved a slew of funding shifts the Pentagon requested in June to pay officers, avoid hiring freezes in the Department of the Air Force, and set up U.S. Space Command, among other priorities.

The Defense Department routinely asks the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees to let the military move money between accounts in a process known as reprogramming. This omnibus reprogramming request looked to shuffle more than $2 billion in fiscal 2019 and 2020 dollars.

For the Air Force, much of the money will go toward congressionally approved pay raises and retirement contributions. “Without additional funds, Air Force will have to institute a hiring freeze and/or furlough civilian employees,” the reprogramming document said.

DOD also secured an $80 million plus-up for U.S. Space Command, which is barely a year old.

“These funds support the Combined Force Space Component Command, missile warning/missile defense, Joint Operations Center contractor support, and information technology support across the command,” the document states. “In addition, the resources fund other headquarters contractor support, travel, and training necessary to fulfill the [combatant command’s] roles and responsibilities within the joint force.” 

SPACECOM needs additional money so it can keep its growth on track and continue daily operations according to plan, DOD added.

The satellite communications upgrade program known as WGS-11+ secured an extra $5 million to stay on track as well. The Space Force wants to deliver new Wideband Global SATCOM systems, which are twice as capable as the earlier version, starting in 2024.

“Without funds, the program office will be unable perform the mission analysis, engineering support, anomaly resolution, and systems engineering and integration functions required to support the required WGS-11+ production and launch in 2024, ultimately preventing the program from closing the warfighter operational mission gap that currently exists,” DOD argued. “Warfighter demand for the capability provided by the WGS constellation exceeds the current constellation capacity.”

Funding stability for some programs comes at the expense of progress for others.

The Senate Armed Services Committee postponed a decision to transfer more than $77.5 million into the aircraft procurement account. Those projects would add commercial Wi-Fi to four C-32A and four C-40B planes that ferry around senior leaders, as well as other communications improvements.

SASC also wants to wait on installing Enhanced On-Board Oxygen Generation Systems (OBOGS) into 443 T-6 aircraft. “These funds are required in order to lessen the risk of unexplained physiological events stemming from primary OBOGS system failure while student pilots and instructor pilots are flying the T-6 training aircraft,” the document said.

Joint Direct Attack Munition tailkit upgrades are deferred, as well as a project to integrate systems that protect against threatening small drones into the Air Force enterprise.

An effort to design new maternity flight suits for women who are now allowed to fly longer into their pregnancies is also pushed off. The Air Force had asked for $6 million to develop safer flight suits with harnesses that account for the shape and size of women’s bodies. Another $5.1 million project to create in-flight bladder relief devices for women was deferred as well.

Lawmakers are letting the Air Force pull funding from several aircraft and ammunition upgrade programs that have saved money or that are not spending as much because they are delayed. They blocked the transfer of funds from certain programs, like the MQ-9 Reaper office, which had wanted to start shutting down production in 2021.