The U.S. Air Force, which has strived in recent years to make its satellites more resilient to potential attack, expects to receive funding in the Trump administration’s upcoming fiscal year 2018 budget request to continue those efforts, service officials said May 9.

“I think what you’ll see in the budget is measured steps across the enterprise in terms of how we address mission assurance,” said David Hardy, associate deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space. “But it’ll be measured steps. We’re not going to get this done in one [five-year future years defense program.] It took us a long time to build the existing systems. It’s going to take a significant amount of time” to improve their defenses.

An artist's illustration of an Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite. Image: Air Force.
An artist’s illustration of an Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite. Image: Air Force.

The Air Force launched most of its satellites when space was a relatively benign environment. But Chinese and Russian forces are increasingly active in space, posing growing threats to U.S satellites.

“Space is becoming more normalized as a warfighting domain,” said Col. Sidney Conner, deputy director for space programs in the Air Force acquisition office. “Enhancing the resilience of our current systems – we’re going to need to do that while we evolve to the next generation of systems.”

Conner said the Air Force has already implemented many resiliency enhancements, including upgrades to the fifth and sixth Space Based Infrared System missile-warning satellites and the fifth and sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellites. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for both satellite constellations.

“The investments have begun steadfastly,” Conner said. “I think it’s fair to say … that you’ll see investments continue on that path.”

The administration is expected to unveil its FY 2018 budget request in late May. But Hardy said many of the Air Force’s resiliency efforts will not be found in the budget because they involve such things as improving training, refining concepts of operations, identifying authorities and working with allies.

Conner and Hardy both spoke on a Washington Space Business Roundtable panel in Arlington, Va.