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U.S. Military Space Programs: An Overview of Appropriations and Current Issues

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The 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act specified that military space activities be conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD). DOD and the intelligence community manage a broad array of space activities, including launch vehicle development, communications satellites, navigation satellites (the Global Positioning System -- GPS), early warning satellites to alert the United States to foreign missile launches, weather satellites, reconnaissance satellites, and developing capabilities to protect U.S. satellite systems and to deny the use of space to adversaries (called "space control" or "counterspace systems"). The 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War is dubbed by some as the first "space war" because support from space displayed great improvement over what was available during the previous major conflict, Vietnam. These systems continue to play significant roles in U.S. military operations. How to organize DOD and the intelligence community to work effectively on space programs has been an issue for many years.

Tracking the DOD space budget is extremely difficult since space is not identified as a separate line item in the DOD budget. Additionally, DOD sometimes releases only partial information (omitting funding for classified programs) or will suddenly release without explanation new figures for prior years that are quite different from what was previously reported. Figures provided to CRS show a total (classified and unclassified) DOD space budget of $19.4 billion for FY2003, $20 billion for FY2004, $19.8 billion for FY2005, and a request of $22.5 billion for FY2006. The actual FY2006 and proposed FY2007 budget figures are not yet available.

Two DOD space programs that have been particularly controversial are Space Radar (formerly Space-Based Radar -- SBR) and TSAT (the transformational communications satellite program). The programs are controversial because their cost estimates are high, and Congress has been skeptical of those estimates and of DOD's ability to manage the programs successfully based on past program performance. Congress cut DOD's $226 million FY2006 request for Space Radar by $126 million and its $836 million FY2006 request for TSAT by $400 million. The FY2007 requests for those programs are $266 million for Space Radar and $867 million for TSAT. This report replaces part of CRS Issue Brief IB92011, U.S. Space Programs: Civilian, Military, and Commercial, originally written by Marcia S. Smith. It will be updated as events warrant.