House committee limits Space Development Agency funding, asks for detailed plans

May 15 (UPI) — Funding for the proposed Space Development Agency could be limited until the Defense Department submits to Congress a detailed plan for the new agency.

In a draft of the Defense Department funding bill for fiscal year 2020, released on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee appropriators would block funding for the SDA until 90 days after the secretary of defense submits a detailed plan for the new agency.

The SDA is due to exist under the Department of Defense, but by 2022 will fall under either the Air Force or Space Force. The Space Force is expected to have status equal to that of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, but will be a division of the Air Force.

On Wednesday, the Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee met in closed session to mark up the bill, which provides $690.2 billion in discretionary spending for the Defense Department. The figure is higher than the 2019 level, but lower than the request made by the White House this year. The bill also limits the president’s ability to shift funds between accounts.

The bill demands that until the Pentagon details the cost of the SDA’s establishment and submits a three-year plan for projects and outlines their costs, no funding will be allotted for the new agency. The committee also has requested information on how the SDA and the Air Force will work together on space architecture and the processes both agencies will use to turn prototypes and plans into working programs.

The committee also seeks information on planned SDA locations and the number of personnel it will require, since legislators regard defense jobs in their congressional districts as advantageous.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan signed off on the inception of SDA in March, with its first task to arrange a constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites for the transfer of data among the military’s terrestrial and space assets.

The less than enthusiastic rollout of the SDA and the House committee’s demand for details can be seen as a reproach to President Donald Trump‘s proposal to establish a military agency in space. The legislation could face similar objections in the Senate.

“This bill rejects the Trump administration’s budgetary gimmicks and sleights of hand and instead provides the Defense Department with appropriate resources to address an evolving threat landscape and ensure the security of our nation and our allies,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., of the Defense Department funding bill.

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