Lawmakers recommend $800 million budget increase for defense labs and testing infrastructure

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WASHINGTON — As U.S. Department of Defense labs and testing organizations grapple with a multibillion-dollar infrastructure funding shortfall, lawmakers want to boost exercise funding by nearly $800 million. 2022 for the most critical projects.

The funding – included in the fiscal year 2022 defense spending compromise bill released this week – targets the development of key technologies and test infrastructure like space, hypersonic weapons, energy directed, electromagnetic spectrum, and targeting, adding $422.7 million to defense and navy-wide research and development. projects.

The bill also proposes $375.4 million to make DoD ranges more representative of a fifth-generation threat environment, by funding projects at the Nevada Test and Training Range, Point Mugu Sea Range, China Lake and the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Along with funding for lineup enhancement, legislators are requiring a report from the director of operational testing and evaluation as well as the test resource management center that outlines a spending plan and details all funding needs of the year.

“It should be noted that recent investments in next-generation weapons such as [as] hypersonic, directed-energy and space-based technologies have not been accompanied by investments in the associated test infrastructure to demonstrate these capabilities under relevant operational conditions against realistic threats,” lawmakers said in a joint explanatory statement accompanying The law project.

The proposed funding increase is significantly less than the $1.1 billion recommended by Senate spending officers in an earlier bill. But it comes as the DoD and industry leaders worry about the state of labs and testing facilities.

The department’s list of unfunded requirements for fiscal year 2022 for military laboratory construction projects, obtained by Defense News, identifies 81 projects totaling about $3.29 billion. Of the 81 projects, 22 come from the Army, 29 from the Navy and 30 from the Air Force; 57 of the projects are considered major and 24 minor.

Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu estimated the total shortfall at nearly $5 billion at a Potomac Officers Club event in January. Shyu said that at the time, the department’s innovation steering group was working to understand which projects were the most critical as well as the implications of not funding those efforts.

And then in February, at a meeting convened by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to discuss the development of hypersonic technology, industry leaders identified shortcomings in test infrastructure as a major obstacle to the commissioning of capacities in a faster timeframe.

Former DoD officials and analysts told Defense News at the time that the department’s fiscal year 2023 budget will be a key indicator of whether the department is serious about improving hypersonic test infrastructure. .

Mark Lewis, executive director of the National Defense Industrial Association’s Institute for Emerging Technologies and former acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, said there needed to be a commitment at the office level of the Secretary of Defense to invest in things like wind tunnels and other facilities that facilitate flight testing.

As part of the increase proposed by lawmakers for fiscal year 2022, a project to revive a decommissioned hypersonic synthetic air propulsion test facility would receive about $29.5 million in additional funding. The bill would also add $200 million for advanced phased array radar test infrastructure, $105.4 million for laboratory upgrades and electromagnetic spectrum testing, and $40 million to purchase new C-band and X-band decoy systems.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s Space and Emerging Technologies Journalist. She previously covered the US Air Force and US Space Force for Inside Defense.

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