RPT-INSIGHT-Budget cuts, barriers slow U.S. military space shakeup
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON Oct 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force has talked for years about attracting more companies to the military satellite business to stir competition and cut costs. But progress has been halting at best.
Now, just as the U.S. military is finally revamping its approach, cuts in defense spending threaten to undermine even the modest progress that is being made.
Billions of dollars of new contracts are at stake, both for legacy satellite and rocket launch providers such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, and newcomers trying to break into the market.
The Government Accountability Office, a congressional research arm, last month estimated that the U.S. military, NASA and other government agencies would spend $44 billion just to launch satellites over the next five years. Billions more would be spent on building the spacecraft.
But military and industry leaders say the efforts to save money and attract competitors may falter without the seed money needed to work on prototypes and projects studying whether smaller, cheaper satellites can provide the missile warning, weather forecasting and protected communications services now handled by complex, large satellites that each cost billions of dollars.
"Any delay in getting a budget means that I lose the opportunity to get those activities going or to sustain them," Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, who runs Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, told Reuters.
"If I don't do those things, then I don't have the answers to do anything but go build clones" of existing systems, which would undermine the Air Force's efforts to use new developments and cheaper alternatives developed in the interim. Continued...