Senate Appropriations Proposes $500 Million Extra for Space Force in 2022

The Senate Appropriations Committee released its version of the 2022 Department of Defense Appropriations Act on Oct. 18, as lawmakers look to provide the Pentagon with its annual budget before the current continuing resolution funding the government expires Dec. 3.

The $725.8 billion bill would raise DOD spending above the total proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration back in May and put it in line with similar increases included in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House.

While the NDAA authorizes the funds for the Defense Department, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act actually appropriates the money. The House Appropriations defense subcommittee reported its version of the bill, which kept spending in line with the administration’s request, back in July, but the entire chamber has not proceeded with a vote on it.

The Senate panel’s version, meanwhile, adds spending across four main priorities, according to a report issued by defense subcommittee chair Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)—countering China and investing in the Indo-Pacific; artificial intelligence, cyber, and microelectronics; space; and infrastructure and public shipyards.

In particular, the bill would increase the Space Force’s total budget to $17.9 billion, an extra $500 million on top of what the young service requested for 2022, which was already $2 billion more than 2021. That would mark around a 2.9 percent increase over the service’s request and more than 16 percent over 2021.

A healthy portion of the $500 million increase—some $120 million—is dedicated to weapons system sustainment, which was a key part of USSF’s unfunded priorities list. Another $61 million would be dedicated “to accelerate a cislunar flight experiment.” Cislunar space, the region between the Earth and the moon, has increasingly become an area of interest for the Space Force, along with commercial and civil space organizations, as of late. On top of that, an extra $75 million is dedicated to “increased basic research.”

The bill does include a reduction of $433 million for the Space Force’s Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites, which the report states “are being developed on fixed-price contracts, yet funding is requested in excess of the contracted value.”

Across the entire department, the bill also proposes a $500 million program “to increase adoption of artificial intelligence capabilities at combatant commands” along with an extra $100 million to improve recruitment and talent development for those in AI-related fields.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would also receive a bump in funding under the bill, with $70 million to increase the agency’s efforts on “AI, cyber, and data analytics,” and $80 million for its Electronics Resurgence Initiative 2.0.

As for the Air Force, the bill would leave USAF’s request for 48 new F-35s and 12 new F-15EXs untouched. The service had asked for no additional F-35s and 12 additional F-15EXs as part of its unfunded priority list, and the Senate Armed Services Committee proposed buying one extra F-35 and five more F-15EXs.

Yet while the appropriations bill does not include those increases, it does include an extra $1.8 billion for procurement of 16 new C-130Js for the ​​”modernization of two Air National Guard operational wings,” the bill’s report states. It also adds six more MH-139 helicopters, listed as “UH-1N replacement.”