The U.S. Space Force's $30 billion budget request for Fiscal Year 2024 is about $3.9 billion over what was enacted for the service in FY2023. More than 60% of the Space Force budget, about $19.2 billion worth, is aimed at research, development, testing and evaluation.
Testifying yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman explained the challenges he sees in a contested space domain and how the Space Force aims to ready itself to meet those challenges.
"When describing space threats, it is important to account for two kinds: first, threats from space assets and second, threats to space assets," Saltzman said.
Threats from space, the general said, include both China's and Russia's robust space-based capabilities which allow them to find, target, and attack U.S. military forces on land, at sea and in the air.
The U.S. also has assets in space — satellites that it relies on for communications and navigation, for instance — that are put at risk by the nation's adversaries.
"Both China and Russia continue to develop, field and deploy a range of weapons aimed at U.S. space capabilities," the general said. "The spectrum of threats to U.S. space capabilities includes cyber warfare activities, electronic attack platforms, directed energy lasers designed to blind or damage satellite sensors, ground-to-orbit missiles to destroy satellites and space-to-space orbital engagement systems that can attack U.S. satellites in space."
To meet the challenges posed by adversaries, Saltzman told lawmakers that Space Force efforts in FY2024 will focus on fielding combat-ready forces, amplifying the Guardian spirit and strengthening the partnerships the Space Force relies on to accomplish its mission.
"My first priority is to build resilient, ready, combat-credible space forces," Saltzman told lawmakers. "To do this, we are accelerating the pivot towards resilient satellite constellations, ground stations, networks and data links."
The general said the Space Development Agency's "Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture," or PWSA — previously called the "National Defense Space Architecture" — is a prime example of that effort.
The PWSA includes hundreds of satellites, delivered in "tranches" every two years, with each tranche providing more capability than the last. That total system involves a "mesh network" of hundreds of optically interconnected satellites in orbit that make up its "transport" layer. The PWSA also includes six additional layers: tracking, custody, deterrence, navigation, battle management and support.
Also part of building a resilient, ready and combat-credible force, Saltzman said, is emphasizing cybersecurity and preparing Space Force Guardians to detect and defeat cyber-attacks against networks, systems, ground stations, datalinks and satellites.
The U.S. Space Force stood up in December 2019, just over 3 years ago. Developing talent to staff the new service is a priority, Saltzman said.
"My second priority is to amplify the Guardian spirit by embracing a modern talent management process that recruits the best talent, develops and retains an elite workforce and empowers Guardians to succeed," he said.
An example of that is the service's constructive service credit program which allows experienced professionals from key fields to directly commission into the Space Force at ranks appropriate to their civilian experience.
"Over the last year we have also deployed space-centric curriculum for basic military training, Reserve Officer Training Corps and Officer Training School," the general said.
The Space Force is also looking to a concept that allows personnel to more easily move between full-time and part-time military service — without causing damage to their careers — so that they can pursue enriching opportunities outside full-time military service. This concept is something Congress can help the service accomplish, Saltzman said.
Since taking over as chief of space operations, just four months ago, Saltzman said he has visited multiple combatant commands and also met with space chiefs in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
"U.S. allies and international partners are eager for expanded collaboration with the Space Force, especially in areas that strengthen the effectiveness of coalition space operations and reinforce norms of responsible behavior," Saltzman said.
Strengthen partnerships, he said, is the third priority for Space Force, Saltzman said.
"The Space Force will strive to eliminate barriers to collaboration, including overclassification, so we can build enduring advantages with our partners," he said. "To date, personnel from over 50 countries have participated in training, education and exercise events hosted by the Space Force. We are also leveraging allies and partners to expand our warfighting capability."
Saltzman also said that commercial partners and the technologies developed there, such as advanced power and propulsion, artificial intelligence and machine learning and in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing, are also a focus for increased partnerships for Space Force.
"The Space Force is the preeminent military space organization in the world," Saltzman told senators. "Our adversaries seek to surpass the United States and challenge our advantage. We cannot and will not allow this to happen. Our Guardians will out work, out innovate and out compete our adversaries to ensure that we succeed."