Space Force Budget Would Soar by 15 Percent in 2024

The Space Force gains the largest funding increase in percentage terms under President Biden’s 2024 budget request. The $30 billion proposal for the nation’s smallest military branch includes a 15 percent increase—$3.9 billion—over the enacted 2023 budget, fueled by investments in overhead persistent infrared missile warning systems, the global positioning system enterprise, and launch vehicles for both the National Security Space Launch and Rocket System Launch Program.

“The FY 2024 request continues aggressively integrating the Space Force into the fabric of national and international security by collaborating across the Department of Defense, interagency, commercial industry, and our allies and partners,” the budget documents say. “Space is a warfighting domain critical to the Nation’s security, economic prosperity, and scientific knowledge, therefore, the FY 2024 request reflects a substantial increase in funding over previous budget requests.”

The Space Force would expand from 8,600 Guardians to 9,400. Like all military personnel, Guardians would receive a 5.2 percent pay raise, along with a 4.2 percent boost for the basic housing allowance, and a 3.4 percent increase in the basic subsistence allowance.

Much of the increase in the Space Force budget would fund new Research, Development, Test & Evaluation. The service is budgeted to spend $16.6 billion for RDT&E in 2023, and the 2024 budget would add $2.6 billion for a total $19.2 billion. Development of new resilient missile warning and tracking satellites, space technology development and prototyping, and Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared missile warning are the primary targets of that new investment.

The Space Force would also invest $4.7 billion to buy new space vehicles and terminals, ground control systems, launch services and related communications security and training products.

The main focus of all that investment is modernization to respond to growing threats to space technology. “The fast-growing array of threats that can attack American interests in, through, and from space pose a challenge that cannot be addressed through enhancements to decreasingly relevant legacy space systems designed for an uncontested domain,” the service wrote in its budget highlights.

The 2024 budget would support procuring 10 National Security Space Launch Services, which are used to send medium and heavy lift systems into orbit. Five launches under the NSSL program would deliver Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 transport capabilities, which are responsible for communications and data transmission in orbit. The 2024 budget request asks for about $980 million more than last year for buying new launch vehicles and launch range upgrades.

The fiscal 2024 budget would also start up the production of Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals Force Element terminals for the Air Force’s B-52 bomber. The FAB-T program allows commanders to communicate with B-52 crews even in contested environments.

The proposed global positioning system enterprise budget emphasize RDT&E. The GPS enterprise “provides worldwide, 24-hour a day, all-weather 3-dimensional positioning, navigation, and timing information for military and civilian users,” according to the budget documents.  The fiscal 2024 budget aims to continue developing ten GPS III Follow-on satellites and support the satellite constellation’s transition from a legacy operational control system to its next generation edition. The total $1.3 billion proposal for the GPS enterprise would also support the development of Military GPS User Equipment, which is meant to help service members keep using GPS-provided positioning, navigation and timing information even “in the most contested environments,” according to the Department of Defense.

As its official song, “Semper Supra,” intones, the Space Force is “the mighty watchful eye” of the nation, and the 2024 request seeks about $5 billion for space-based missile warning. The Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Program (OPIR) and Resilient Missile Warning and Missile Tracking (MW/MT) systems are critical programs for identifying China’s most advanced missile threats even in the event of attacks on those space-based sensors.

Next-Gen OPIR will “rapidly deliver strategically survivable missile warning capabilities” to detect advanced missiles , while Resilient MW/MT is meant to ensure that the missile warning system can survive attacks by counter-space systems developed by adversaries.

The 2024 budget request also includes about $4.7 billion for satellite communications projects. The Space Force has three categories of satellite communications: strategic, for nuclear command, control and communications; protected tactical, for tactical-level communications in contested environments; and wideband and narrowband, which provide “large throughput in less contested areas,” according to the Department of Defense. The 2024 budget request would support continued SATCOM development and initiate engineering and manufacturing for a new “purpose-built high-throughput anti-jam satellite system” for protected tactical networks, according to budget documents.