As the threat of war in space rises, the Air Force is asking to increase its fiscal 2018 budget for space programs to $7.7 billion, a 20-percent jump from the current year, officials said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Roger W. Teague, director of Space Programs for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, and Dr. David A. Hardy, acting deputy under secretary of the Air Force for Space, told reporters at the Pentagon the request is an effort to protect the space domain and aspects of missile defense.
With space now considered a war-fighting domain, Teague said potential adversaries have been "quietly watching" and preparing their own anti-satellite systems that could destroy U.S. satellites and ground stations.
But when asked if U.S. officials have considered deploying missiles, interceptors or technology to shoot down or render inoperable adversary spacecraft -- offensive capabilities the U.S. military has hinted at pursuing in the past -- Teague demurred.
"It's imperative that the United States preserve freedom of action and freedom of maneuver," he said. "I won't detail what actions that we are taking to any kind of counter space capabilities that we may have."
Teague pointed out, however, "I would note, that it's important we recognize the rising threat environment, and that we are taking action to defend ourselves if necessary."
During the briefing, Teague said officials added $1 billion to the space budget for the current year, bringing the spending plan to $6.5 billion, in part to support space-related programs, such as ballistic missile early warning systems, sub-launch ballistic missile radar warning systems, service support to U.S. Strategic Command, and defense reconnaissance activities.
"From now [and] in the future, we will continue to focus on the entire space budget to include ... all these other sub accounts," he said.
Additionally, the service plans to begin seven space programs under the 2018 budget. The most expensive of the efforts, at $87.5 million, is funding for the Evolved Space-Based Infrared System, or SBIRS. The system is a strategic constellation consisting of geostationary and polar coverage satellites that provide improved strategic missile warning coverage, according to the Air Force.
Other new programs include the Space Surveillance Telescope, capable of speedily discovering and tracking previously unseen or hard-to-find small objects that could threaten satellites, as well as the Protected Tactical SATCOM, or PTS, which uses protected tactical waveforms to communicate with drones, special ops technologies, and other mobile communication systems.