Classified Space Programs Poised for Budget Boost
Classified space program funding is slated for significant growth, even as some defense officials are pushing for more transparency on capabilities that have been closely guarded secrets, according to one analyst.
President Joe Biden requested $17.5 billion for the Space Force in fiscal year 2022, a 13 percent bump over what was enacted for 2021. About 27 percent of that is for classified efforts, according to Russell Rumbaugh, systems director at the Aerospace Corp.’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy.
“The Space Force continues to grow and consolidate, but it still exhibits several long-standing features of defense space: high classification levels and large programs,” he wrote in a recent issue brief, “The FY22 Defense Space Budget Request Analysis.”
Total spending on classified defense space programs was first revealed last year. Previously, it was “buried” in other toplines, he noted.
“Because of that new transparency, the Space Force’s continued growth is obvious,” Rumbaugh said. That includes proposed spending for procurement as well as research, development, test and evaluation.
In the president’s 2022 fiscal blueprint, classified RDT&E program spending for the Space Force would increase by 22 percent — a significantly higher rate than the service’s overall budget growth, he noted.
Classified procurement would nearly double from $78 million to $142 million, he said.
“While some of these increases may reflect transfers from elsewhere in DoD as with the unclassified funding, those increases are nevertheless real increases in the Space Force’s authority and control of resources,” Rumbaugh said.
Approximately 40 percent of the service’s RDT&E program funding is classified — about the same number as the Air Force — whereas for the Navy and Army it amounts to only 8 percent and “just a small fraction of a percent,” respectively, he said.
“Some of that comes from the Space Force’s disproportionate focus on hardware because of the nature of space operations,” he added.
“However, the heavily classified activities make it difficult for the Space Force leaders to explain what they do — including to adversaries.”
Meanwhile, some Defense Department leaders have been pushing for more transparency into military space programs, he noted.
At the recent Space Symposium hosted by the Space Foundation, Army Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, said ensuring deterrence will require demonstrating new capabilities and the will to use them, to include the development and adaptation of “game-changing” technologies, suggesting that the Pentagon may soon unveil some of its counter-space capabilities that have been closely guarded secrets.