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Guest: Dr. Robert "Sam" Wilson; Topics: The US Space Force and budget analysis, missile warning and tracking, LEO and MEO, rescue, weapons, China, Russia, and much more.
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We welcomed Dr. Sam Wilson back to the show to discuss his paper from September 2022, "Fiscal Year 2023 Space Force Budget Analysis: Missile Warning and Tracking Looms Large." You can download this paper at https://csps.aerospace.org/papers/issue-brief-fiscal-year-2023-space-force-budget-analysis-missile-warning-and-tracking-looms. I strongly urge you to download and read this paper which is a more complete report and assessment of the Space Force 2023 budget than we were able to do in our discussion. To start our discussion, our guest talked in general about budget analysis, why it was so important and some of the perceptions about it that might discount its value. As soon as this introduction was completed, we jumped into the Space Force budget analysis.
One of the first items pointed out concerned the 36% budget increase but as you will hear our guest say, it was still flat. He explained this fact to us but the simple version is that the 36% increase did not address all Space Force needs equally or proportionally. For example, the big Space Force consideration now is missile warning and missile tracking (MW/MT). This was a very technical, costly and research dependent discussion but the paper has charts and graphs to help one understand the situation better. MW/MT is one of the largest budget consuming items for the entire military but the increase in the Space Force budget did not reflect this importance. As for MW/MT, it comprised the majority of our discussion with our guest.
The MW/MT focus came about due our advancements in weapons and technology from our adversaries. Hypersonic Glide Vehicles which have been in the news lately are an example but as you will hear, the old fashioned ICBM is not so old fashioned any more as it too has maneuverability capabilities. Don't miss what our guest said about this. Another big component of this and the Space Force budget had to do with changing the operational domains for the Space Force. It used to be that the focus was on GEO and polar orbiting satellites and capabilities. Not anymore. The focus has moved toward LEO and MEO capabilities plus ground networks. As our guest said many times, we are in a transitional phase from the old to the new and it is costly. As I said, a good portion of our discussion dealt with the transition, the adversaries and their capabilities, what we were doing and needed to do and over what kind of time table. If you missed something in the discussion, read Sam's paper per the link above.
Later in our discussion, listeners asked our guest about the role of commercial space, especially as seen with the war in Ukraine, and inquired if commercial space a factor in the budget analysis. Our guest addressed this and yes to the simple answer, commercial space and government partnerships with the private companies is a factor and a significant growing factor. You don't want to miss all of what Sam had to say about the role of commercial and private companies in national security space and the functions and responsibilities of the Space Force.
Another important and costly component talked about for Space Force was consolidation. From the beginning of the Space Force costly consolidation has been going on with the other branches of the military and in some instances with other branches of government. Transitioning from the AF to the Space Force which is under the AF command is one thing but there has also been transitioning from the Army, Navy, Marines and others. Toward the end of the program a listener asked Sam for his view of the Space Force five years from now. One thing he said in his reply was that in five years, most of the consolidation will be finished. In terms of budgets, that means consolidation funds will be allocated to other operational needs of the Space Force.
As we were ending the program, listener Bonnie from Chicago asked Sam about the Space Force taking on a rescue service like the Coast Guard, Park Rangers, etc. for space tourists, residents of space somewhere out there, workers and who knows what else. Don't miss all of what Sam said in response to this question but he did say at some point this would happen but as to when, I guess you can decide that one.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Wilson on our blog for this show. You can reach our guest through me or through The Center For Space Policy and Strategy at the Aerospace Corporation.