March 25, 2015 / 11:39 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. officials urge funding to reduce vulnerabilities in space

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. military officials on Wednesday urged Congress to approve $5 billion in increased spending aimed at protecting U.S. military and intelligence satellites, citing what they called growing threats from China and other countries.

Doug Loverro, deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy, said the Pentagon’s fiscal 2016 budget request marked a “significant turn” toward better protecting the satellites, which provide critical capabilities such as targeting, missile warning and weather data to the U.S. military.

He said the fiscal 2016 budget and associated five-year budget plan increased or shifted $5 billion in funding to ensure the United States’s continued ability to fight future wars.

Loverro told the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that threats to such systems included increased congestion in space, spectrum interference and debris, as well as hostile threats from countries like China that are actively seeking to eliminate the U.S. advantage in space.

Loverro told the committee the funding included both classified and unclassified programs but gave no details about specific programs. He said additional funding might be required in coming years after the Defense Department completes several studies about future satellite needs.

Loverro and other top Pentagon officials told lawmakers the funding was needed to better protect critical satellites that were designed at a time when the United States was one of very few countries operating and launching satellites.

General John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, said the added funding was absolutely necessary to ensure the military’s ability to continue using its satellites.

He said the threats the United States faced were “significant.” The Air Force officer said he would provide lawmakers with more details during a classified hearing which was to follow the open hearing.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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