Jeffrey LewisSpace-Based Laser in the Black Budget?

Just when you thought the space-based laser was dead … the Canadian Department of National Defence reveals that it believes the program has gone black to hide it from scrutiny.

Last year, MDA closed its Space-based Laser (SBL) program office and canceled the
anticipated 2012 test of the system. MDA/’s decision followed a $120 million Congressional cut to the program in FY02 and a decision by MDA not to seek substantial funding in FY03. MDA Director Ronald Kadish told reporters that MDA would no longer focus on “putting an experiment in space in the near term . . . . Space basing of this capability can be looked at as a later improvement as opposed to a near-term imperative.”

The Ottawa Citizen, however, reports obtained a March 2003 Canadian Department of National Defence report that suggests otherwise. It seems our neighbors to the North concluded that MDA was interested in “possibly moving [the Space-based laser] into /’black/’ territory where progress will be concealed.”

The unclassified budget, although it contains funds for “decommissioning” the Capistrano, California Test Site associated with the “canceled” Space-based laser program, retains some funding to “further refine the DE [Directed Energy] concept and provide options for future system production. Emergent technologies resulting from this investment will provide MDA with the ability to pursue DE systems, possibly including a Space-Based DE program.”

The continuation of the program in a much larger scale in the classified budget is feasible: DOD has plenty of black R&D money – $11.8 billion or 19 percent of total RDT&E funding according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Given the spending profile developed by CBO, MDA could keep this thing in their classified budget for another several years before the spending started to hit the billion dollars per year mark.