The Senate Appropriations Committee wants the U.S. Space Force to assess the potential gap in strategic communications as the service proposes budget cuts to the Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications program and plans to push back the planned replacement of Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites with ESS satellites to 2032, Breaking Defense reported Wednesday.
“The ESS system may be needed sooner due to optimistic functional availability estimates and an earlier need for resiliency enhancement,” the Senate panel said in a draft spending bill for fiscal year 2021.
Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE: LMT) space business and a 2020 Wash100 winner, said scheduling the migration from AEHF to ESS satellites could be a tricky matter given the need to ensure that the military and government have access to strategic communications at all times.
“How do you have a risk profile that you’re comfortable with, but keep assured capability to the government or the warfighter? This is strategic communications. It’s very, very important,” he said.
As the government faces budget constraints, Ambrose said customers have the tendency to have the “launch on need” mindset, which could have potential drawbacks.
“Things never go precisely as planned,” he said. “And while [delaying launch] is good for smoothing the budget, it can risk the capability.”
Lockheed will build and demonstrate an ESS prototype by June 2025 under a potential $258.3M contract awarded Monday.