WASHINGTON: Funding for a new space command center will nearly triple if Congress approves the Pentagon’s mid-year reprogramming request. Propelled by personal interest from both Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and his deputy, Bob Work, the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSPOC) began this year with just $16 million in 2016 funding. The reprogramming request out yesterday would add another $30 million, a 188 percent increase.
Most of the JICSPOC plus-up, $27 million, would go to the nascent command center’s primary function: “training, test, and experimentation” to allow “unity of effort across space communities.” Unity in this case primarily means better coordination between the regular military’s “white space” programs and the intelligence community’s classified “black space,” especially if war threatens the satellites on which the US relies. The other $3 million go to general support, “to include perimeter security escorts and information technology infrastructure.”
This $30 million is still a pittance by Pentagon standards: The entire reprogramming request totals $2.6 billion, so the JICPSOC plus-up is less than 0.1 percent. (The total Pentagon budget, of course, is even bigger, at $580 billion for 2016).
But the rate of growth remains impressive. It’s also worth noting that the JICSPOC is staffed in large part by personnel detailed from other organizations and carried on their payrolls — the $16 million in start-up money funded only one person — so its official budget understates its size.
The 2017 request for JICSPOC is just $15 million, but Congress hasn’t finalized funding levels yet, so there’s plenty of room to grow. The driver of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, Deputy Secretary Work, has held up space as a crucial arena for future conflict and JICSPOC in particular as a model effort. The question is whether that high-level support carries over past the 2016 elections into the new administration.