DOD leaders emphasize space

Space-based assets are critical to nearly every aspect of how the Defense Department wages war, and their importance will only increase as the military services continue to transform into a network-centric force, according to a panel of DOD leaders.

But in order to remain relevant and useful in peacetime and during conflicts, numerous space systems and programs must be modernized and upgraded, while others require substantial funding in order to be ready in the years ahead.

Peter Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, is DOD's point person for national security space activities and has identified eight priorities for those efforts this year that he said also shape the fiscal 2004 budget requests for those programs.

Testifying March 12 before the Senate Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Teets outlined the eight priorities, which represent an 18 percent growth in DOD space funding requests over current-year levels:

* Ensuring mission success in space operations.

* Fully integrating space capabilities for warfighting and national intelligence.

* Getting space acquisition programs on track.

* Pursuing operationally responsive, assured access to space.

* Developing a "cadre" of space professionals.

* Pursuing innovative capabilities for national intelligence and defense priorities.

* Enhancing space control capabilities.

* Focusing space science and technology resources and programs.

Teets said DOD is making progress in all of the areas, but more must be done, particularly in integrating military and intelligence community space assets, and in developing a "space cadre" of professionals within the Air Force and the entire DOD.

"Our goals for improved integration include providing communications, environmental sensing, and precise position and timing information to support a common operational picture of the battlespace, and facilitating cross-platform command, control and communications," he said.

Many information technology-laden space programs are included in the fiscal 2004 budget request, including:

* Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA), which will combine upcoming systems, like the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system, with future transformational satellites that will leverage new technologies such as laser communications and Internet-based protocols.

* Space Based Radar (SBR), which will enable warfighters to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions in dangerous areas at any time, and bridge the gap between DOD and intelligence communities.

Navy Adm. James Ellis, commander of Strategic Command, said both of those systems, as well as myriad ones currently being used, are essential to ensuring DOD and intelligence personnel have all the information and enhanced situational awareness necessary to make decisions, anticipate conflicts and win future battles.

There is $439 million requested for TCA in the 2004 budget, and it has an estimated total cost of $12.5 billion. The SBR request for next year is $274 million, with an estimated initial launch in 2012 and final cost of $4.4 billion, Teets said.

The latest phase of the Air Force's highly scrutinized Space Based Infrared System, which combines space- and ground-based systems to detect missile launches and determine where they will strike, is making "excellent progress" after last year's restructuring, but is working to solve an "electromagnetic compatibility problem," Teets said.

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